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Jan 5, 2001 04:41 PM

Any Chowhounds ever tried Fugu?

  • m

Now is the season for the potentially deadly (but the risks are quite slim if the fish is prepared correctly) Japanese delicacy of Fugu. I was curious if any Chowhounds had ever tried it and could describe what its like.


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  1. t
    Tommy O'Malley

    I've tried it. Tasted so-so, but I'm not a big fish connaisseeur. Never felt at risk; actually, I'm not sure if the incidence of fugu poisoning is really any higher than with any other food -- ptomaine, salmonella, mad cow, etc. There is a "death-by-fugu" happening in the news every 10 years or so; perhaps the actual rate is 2 or 3 times that.

    The difference is supposedly the SPEED with which it proves fatal. I am told that it takes but a few seconds, and there is no known antidote. Or there is an antidote, but noone has time to use it.

    Incidentally, it is not the toxins, but the PRICE which keep most people away. It has a reputation as a food to be had when someone ELSE (client/boss) is paying.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Tommy O'Malley

      Fugu is an extremely delicate fish, usually served raw, cut into wisp-thin petals and served arranged into a sort of fish chrysanthemum. It's very pretty, but the taste is mild to nonexistent. Then you are served a pile of shredded skin, a little rubbery, which numbs out your teeth like low-grade cocaine, and a glass of sake garnished with a toasted fin.

      If the chef knows you, he may slip you the tiniest sliver of the liver, which is tasty and mildly intoxicating, but is also the part that will kill you if you eat too much of it. It is illegal to serve the liver, but, you know...

      Interestingly, friends tell me that blowfish was commonly eaten in working-class Brooklyn Italian neighborhoods well into the sixties. Anybody else heard about this?

      1. re: Pepper

        In response to your last question of that post-my dad has told me a story of the days of his teen youth (which were the late 50's/early 60's)when he was a couselor at some summer camp in Long Island (I believe).

        He told me he came in to dinner one night and was thrilled to see a pile of what looked like freshly fried chicken on the table. He dug in and, much to his dismay, discovered it was blowfish. It was a Catholic camp and it was a Friday.....Needless to say it did not get a rave review and he went very hungry that evening.
        The end.

        1. re: Pepper

          About working class seafood . . .
          Blowfish has always been considered
          a "garbage fish" and was therefore
          very cheap. It's also a nuisance
          fish that ends up on your line when
          you're fishing for something else.
          But I happen to think it's delicious.
          It's a pain to clean and each fish
          yields only a small piece of edible flesh
          (basically just the tail). But it is worth
          the effort because it's very tasty indeed.
          We used to simply saute them in butter or olive
          oil and garlic. Haven't seen them at
          the market in years.

          1. re: christina z

            I wrote an article about blowfish this summer for Newsday. They're making a bit of a comeback and a number of fish stores on the Island carry them in season. If you're ever out East, Stuart's Seafood in Amagansett usually has them if they're available.
            If you go to, and if you can figure out how to use the website, you can get the aticle from the archives. Email me if you have trouble.

        2. re: Tommy O'Malley
          mr. skullhead

          Thanks for the responses.

          Tetrodotoxin (the poison in fugu) kills in hours, not minutes. I've heard of people poisoned in this manner surviving be being put on a respirator. Some claim this toxin is responsible for voodoo 'zombies' (I read somewhere that it is law that a person suspected of Fugu poisoning can't be buried until after three days for this reason. Don't know if it's true) It is interesting that this toxin occurs cross species (Pufferfish, Blue-Ringed Octopus, some species of frog and salamander) and is one of the most lethal natural poisons known. A single milligram of tetrodotoxin can kill an adult (which is why I'd be too paranoid to eat it).


        3. I've had fugu in Japan a lot -- it's pretty reasonably priced in the Kansai area (Osaka, etc.), so there are a number of popular fugu restaurants there.

          I've had it as sashimi served w/citron ponzu sauce, julienned skin with ponzu, in Japanese hot pot, in rice porridge made with the leftover fugu hot pot broth (fugu zosui), fried, and the smoky fin in sake. The sashimi & skin versions didn't do much for me, but I really enjoy the delicate flavor of fugu hot pot and fugu zosui -- fugu zosui needs very little (if *any*) ponzu as the ponzu can easily overpower the fugu flavor in the broth. I've only had the fried version once or twice; it was fine but didn't seem to showcase the delicate fugu flavor as well as the other dishes (tho it was nice from a texture point of view). The smoked fin sake was interesting for the nuances it introduced to warm sake -- soothing to sip in winter.

          I asked the guys at my local sushi bar last month about availability of fugu in the U.S. (or here in San Francisco); he told me that he can get it through a supplier here if it's been butchered in Japan to remove the liver, then frozen & imported (legal reasons). Also said that it's legal for individuals to bring it over on a plane if it's been butchered & is on ice. Can anyone corroborate that? Better yet, does anyone know of sources for fugu (for hot pot) in the States?

          Craving fugu,
          Deb H.