Tiger Fugu: Deadly… Expensive!

February 21, 2020

Tiger Fugu: Deadly… Expensive!
Have you ever heard of Fugu? If not, let us introduce you to the deadly puffer fish that’s being served as a fresh fish delicacy in Japan and costs way more than you’d think! If you can’t remember what a puffer fish is, think of the puffy, cute fish on Finding Nemo… The one that used to inflate and become like a huge ball when enraged! Well people in Japan apparently find it very cute, since they eat about 10.000 tons of the fish each year, and pay handsomely to do so. In fact, in high season the mighty fish could cost you up to 265$ per kilo.

Why so expensive though?

Since there are 122 different species of puffer fish, with only 22 different kinds being approved by the Japanese government for consuming, its price doesn’t come as a surprise. The most prized –and most poisonous- amongst all the others, is the infamous Tiger Puffer Fish, or Torafugu as the locals call it… However, that’s not the only reason it’s so expensive. Purchasing of the Torafugu from restaurant owners happens though a bidding process and safety measures can be really harsh when selling such a dangerous species. The fresh fish can be found at high end restaurants served as sashimi, deep fried or can even be used for the making of Sake. But the catch is that not everyone is allowed to cook it. With 30 to 50 people per year being hospitalized in Japan, due to poor cooked Torafugu, it’s no wonder that only specially trained and licensed chefs can prepare the dish for a luxury dinner! The chefs must be able to tell the difference between which parts of the fish are, in fact, so deadly. These would be the gills, the heart, the eyes, the gallbladder, the kidney, the liver and the ovaries of the females -which unlike the male’s testicles!!- aren’t considered to be a delicacy and are highly poisonous. Furthermore, the poisonous parts can vary between species, so the expertise level of the chef has to be at an excellent level, to say the least. The government puts aspiring chefs through serious exams, in which they have to determine the poisonous from the edible parts and be able to recognize and identify all the puffer fish species, in order to get that license. All the above facts contribute to the high price of a puffer fish dish! It’s also worth mentioning though, that far more people die each year from oyster consuming, than of Fugu.

But what does it taste like?

The brave ones who’ve tried it over the years, have described its taste as very chewy, but also as fresh, clean and really subtle. It does sound nice indeed! Maybe that’s the reason why overfishing of the Fugu fish has become a huge problem, with the government limiting its fishing quotas and seasons to avoid complete extinction. For the same reason, there is now a growing farmed version of the fish, though connoisseurs seem to think that the taste of the farmed ones can’t live up to the originals.

Would you be brave enough to try this… deadly pleasure? Or would you prefer to go with a safer choice, such as a luxury dinner in Mykonos Island, with fresh fish and seafood, that’s bound to enchant to, without having to worry about a possible food poisoning?