In Japan, discerning gourmets pay tremendous prices for a dinner of Fugu, ranging from about US$100 – US$200 per person. Fugu is extremely expensive & only prepared by trained, licensed chefs who know that one bad cut means almost certain death for a customer. In fact, many such deaths occur annually. Hence, the fish is sliced very carefully to obtain the largest possible amount of meat without the poison. A special knife called Fugu Hiki, is traditionally used to slice Fugu.
Each year, these incidents led to between 34 & 64 victims being hospitalized & zero to six deaths. One of the most famous victims was the Kabuki actor & "living national treasure" Bandō Mitsugorō VIII who requested 4 servings of Fugu liver (the most toxic part) & died after eating them. Although Fugu is much celebrated by connoisseurs, the ‘forbidden fruit’ is the only delicacy officially prohibited to the Emperor of Japan.
Because of all these notorious facts, plus I ain’t a fish lover, it took quite a while for me to take up the challenge & to accept my Japanese friend’s invitation to this popular Fugu restaurant, Tora Fugu Tei, at Ginza. I’m glad I’d the privilege of surviving the ordeal & live to tell the tale & not writhing on a hospital bed with convulsions.
My 1st fatal bite – Fugu Yubiki. Spikes in the skin are pulled out of the Fugu & eaten as part of a salad called Yubiki.
The most popular dish is Fugu Sashimi, also called Fugu Sashi or Tessa. The raw fish are sliced paper-thin & arranged artistically in elaborate rosettes that reveal the pattern of the dish. The plates are sometimes decorated in the form of a chrysanthemum flower which is significant in Japanese culture & symbolic of death. The Fugu Sashimi has a resilient chewiness & is served with the ponzu dipping sauce.
Special dedication to Ito-san for hosting this bizarre event & Lee for being such a sport.