Fugu! The Deadly Puffer Fish

How could something so deadly be so delicious?  Perhaps that’s only a question the Puffer Fish can answer.  As the second most poisonous vertebrae in the world, it’s hard to fathom how anyone could even think of eating it, especially when one false preparation could prove to be absolutely deadly.

Why Is The Puffer Fish So Deadly?

Known as the Tetraodontidae, the Puffer Fish contains a natural self-defense mechanism called tetrodotoxin, or poisonous internal organs that can cause death when ingested.  The poison, a sodium channel blocker, paralyzes all muscles as the victim stays fully conscious. Unable to breathe, the victim eventually dies from asphyxiation, awake and aware. There is no known antidote.

Puffer Fish as Food

For centuries in Japan, Puffer Fish have been prepared as fugu.  Trained chefs carefully remove the poisonous parts of the Puffer Fish in order to ensure the safety of the consumer. Even though strict laws regulate the preparation of fugu, it is still the only food the Emperor of Japan is not allowed to eat for his own safety.

Fugu Sashimi by jetalone, on Flickr
by  jetalone  Fugu Sashimi


Preparing The Puffer Fish

By removing all poisonous organs of the fish such as the liver, ovaries and skin, the Puffer Fish can be considered "safe" for consumption and is even quite tasty.  Experienced chefs will sometimes leave trace amounts of the poison in the meal to provide a tingling numbness in the lips that is desirable.  Sliced thin, the fugu can be baked, fried or even put into salads.

Training To Be A Fugu Chef

Rigorous testing is required to be licensed to prepare and sell fugu to the public.  A two to three year apprenticeship is required as is an examination consisting of a written test, fish-identification tests and practical tests.  Only about 35% of chefs pass.