Fugu (puffer fish): Would you or wouldn't you?


(Note: Your responses to the question posed below may be translated for a Japanese blog! Read on...)

Even though I'm Japanese, I do think that we eat an awful lot of food that could be considered to be odd. One of them is the infamous fugu, or puffer fish. Fugu's main claim to fame, besides its extraordinary appearance (it puffs itself up to make itself look a lot bigger to predators), is that its skin and organs are highly poisonous. Nevertheless, it's considered to be a great delicacy in Japan. It's now fugu season in fact, so many people are tucking in to fugu sashi (fugu sashimi), fugu nabe (fugu hotpot), and so on.

In order to serve fugu, a chef has to go through a strict certification process. If an unskilled or careless person accidentally pierces the organs or otherwise contaminates the edible flesh of the fish, then the diner may find that meal to be his last. Despite all regulatory precautions, every year there are reports of people getting sick or even dying from fugu poisoning. Recently there was a case in Toyama prefecture, where nine people who partook of fugu at a sushi restaurant were taken ill; of the 2 people who lost consciousness, one is still in a coma. (Link to news story in Japanese - this hasn't made the news in any English online media outlets as far as I can find out.)

Non-lethal fugu may be on its way to our tables, but fugu fans often cite the thrill of possible poisoning/death as part of the appeal of fugu. A few die-hards even like to put a tiny bit of the poison on their fugu, for that numbing/tingling sensation on the lips. I wonder if they liked to stick their tongues on batteries when they were kids. (This was in fact how a famous kabuki theater actor died of fugu poisoning, many years ago -- he put a bit of the poisonous live on his fugu pieces.) In case you are wondering just how you die, it's not a very nice way to go.

I've had fugu sashi, and while fresh fugu is indeed delicious, I am not sure if the risk of a very uncomfortable death, or an even more uncomfortable recovery time in the hospital, is worth it.

Fugu: Would you? Have you? What do you think of people who do?

So...what do you think about Japanese people (and others) who eat a highly poisonous food willingly? Does it say anything to you about Japanese culture or society?

Would you try fugu yourself? Have you tried it - and if so, what did you think? Was it worth it? (Note: Nippon Restaurant in New York was the first restaurant in the U.S. to serve fugu; there are a dozen or so other restaurants in the city that serve it now. I'm not sure about other cities though.)

Now as I said in the Note at top, your comments/answers to this question may be translated for the Japanese blog MHK - Maou Housou Kyoukai. This is a fun blog where various discussions around the interweb on all kinds of topics are translated into Japanese, for people who are curious about what 'the world' thinks, especially about Japan and Japanese people. The comments are quite interesting to say the least. This post was in fact inspired by a comment left there, and used with the owner Michiru-san's blessing. So go ahead - now's your chance to tell Japanese people what you really think!

(Comments are now closed. After a few years they've deteriorated into name calling and silliness. If you want to make stupid comments about other people's eating preferences, please do so elsewhere.)

Filed under:  japanese fish offbeat japan

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I'm looking at the puffer picture accompanying this post and want to poke it with a fork and eat it- the damn thing looks tasty. But would I indulge in Fugu? No thank you, there are plenty of other very tasty fish in the sea that don't risk a painful death. Better safe than sorry in my case.

I probably would not. I can't say 100% that given the right time and place I never would, but it is not something I am seeking out.

I would be more likely to eat the non-poisonous variety mentioned in the article, for what it is worth.

As for people who do choose to eat it, well, that's their choice. There are many, many things that are more worth being upset over than other people eating a potentially dangerous fish. If that's what makes them happy, good for them.

I wonder how the numbers of people getting sick and/or dying from eating undercooked hamburgers compare to those eating fugu. I absolutely eat hamburgers rare, and you will not get me to stop, but it is not for the 'thrill'.

I had the pleasure of eating fugu five years ago at a 100+ year old, family-owned fugu restaurant in Tokyo (after a day of hiking on Fujisan, just to make it even more perfect). The meal included fugu soup, fugu face, fugu organs in a gelatin, the "chrysanthemum" presentation of fugu sashimi, and more. It all had a very delicate flavor, more delicate than hamachi or sake. There was no lip tingling that I could sense, and we all survived nicely. The multi-generational aspect of this restaurant was reassuring as I had heard that once your fugu fatally poisons a customer, you're no longer allowed to be in the fugu serving business. I'd eat it again, although it's so expensive, I think your money is better spent on Japan's many less notorious yet still "oishi" delicacies.

I am not sure. I wouldn't say definitely that I won't eat it, but it's not at the top of my list of things to try.
That said, if I knew that the chef was extremely skilled and experienced, I might try it.
I love all kinds of sashimi so it's possible. I think though, there are only two or maybe three places in the San Fransisco Bay Area that will serve it. And I think it's always special order ahead of time.
I think it's probably safer to eat than wild gathered mushrooms! Here each year there are at least one or two reports of whole families getting sick or dying form eating wild mushrooms.
Seems to usually be an immigrant family, so I'm guessing there is a mushroom here that looks just like an edible one back in their homeland. Except this one is poisonous!
Also, not a fun way to die!

So maybe I'll have Fugu for my 80th birthday party and if I live then I'll have a few more years left to try it again! ^^

I am looking forward to trying fugu sashimi someday. Japan is pretty high on my list of travel destinations.

I think that it makes complete sense to eat something that you know how to cook properly. We all eat meat that we assume has been cleaned properly by a butcher. That same meat can be quite poisonous if the digestive tract is not removed properly.

I also think it is interesting that most Americans are afraid to eat something that is less likely to kill them than their drive home.

Where does the "Americans" thing come from??? How random and needlessly critical. Also, there has been no majority of people, American or otherwise, saying they are "afraid"--just that it may not be a wise choice. Thanks for the random cheap shot though--you've just made yourself out to be no better than these "scared Americans" you mock.

Scared American? I'm not one but would not eat it because it's not worth it! After a while I couldnt tast it anymore plus I could die no way sicko!

Only one problem; I can treat you for food poisoning caused by the exposure to intestional byproduct contamination with a high rate of recovery and very few side effects, but fugu toxin poisoning almost always carries long term side effects and is almost impossible to treat completely. I can't see the appeal of the risk myself and, no, I won't be trying fugu in the forseeable future.

I ate fugu when I lived in Japan, and it was quite tasty. However, I didn't think it was a "to-die-for" level of deliciousness. I think it's worth trying once, so that you can impress your non-Japanese friends, but unless someone else is paying, I'm unlikely to eat fugu again.

I really like the fugu picture.
I have never tried fugu, and I don't know if I would. I'm not desperate to try it, but have never thought that I definitely wouldn't eat it, either.
My boyfriend just said from his napping-spot on the couch that he's had it, and that it was okay. He didn't think that it stood out as the most delicious fish he's had, and didn't feel his lips tingle or anything.
When reading a book called 'The Serpent and the Rainbow' (it was also a movie) years ago, I remember the author (Wade Davis) speculating that fugu poison may have been one element used in a poison that created real-life zombies in Haiti and the Caribbean.
Fugu is certainly an interesting food, at least for the mythological and cultural aspects! That said, I certainly hope that those recently poisoned by it get better...

I've been in Japan for a while now but I've never had the chance of trying fugu. I would probably try it if someone else bought it for me but I wouldn't go out of my way to buy it myself. Even if I had the chance to try, I would probably just have a tiny bit, just to be able to say that I've tried fugu.

About other people, well it's their lives, so they can do whatever they want. Some people do bungee, other eat fugu. To each its own ;)

I at Fugu several times when I lived in rural Kyoto in 2003-2004. Delicious, light, and didn't seem at all dangerous. The only people we heard of dying at the time seemed to be unlicenced people who had tried to cook it themselves.

I would try fugu, not for any kind of thrill but out of sheer curiosity. I've gotten plenty of snide comments because I like eating raw fish (sushi) and here in Texas, they call that bait. If I'd listened to people trying to get me Not to eat it, I'd have been missing out. You're just as likely to get ill from the other kinds of sashimi and sushi the chef serves as you are from the fugu, in my opinion. Raw fish is, after all, raw. I don't know of any places that serve fugu in my part of Texas, but I haven't been looking either. I'm going to look now, though, just in case the opportunity presents itself for me to try it.

Thank you for reinforcing Texas stereotypes. While what you say may be true, there are NUMEROUS sushi and sushi-serving restaurants in Texas, and they are quite popular. I'm honestly not aware of anyone I know who would mock someone who enjoys sushi because most people I know--Texans--love it.

Another Texan chiming in - I eat sushi happily, but get a lot of flack about it from about half of my friends. That's the thing about stereotypes and generalizations - they come from repeated actions and reactions from a definitive segment of the population, and I can attest that there are still many Texans out there who mock the eating of raw fish (though many of those will happily swallow bleeding steak).

As for fugu... I'm in the "no" category, not because it's dangerous - but because I keep puffers in my home aquarium and love them a little too much to eat one of their cousins.

Maki, I hate all fish. I won't eat it. That being said, I went to a ryokan up in Nagano and most of the courses for dinner were fish. When fugu came along I figured "Why not?" It was deep fried, which is the most tolerable form of fish in my opinion and it was DELICIOUS. I loved it! I had heard that fugu gives a slight numbing sensation to the lips and mouth but I guess this had no poison. It tasted, well, like fried chicken. Not fishy at all. Light and juicy. Loved it!

I would. But cautiously and at a reputable fugu place.

I read "The Serpent and the Rainbow", a book by an ethnobotonist searching for the ingredients to the Caribbean zombi powder. Two main ingredients were blowfish poison, to simulate death, and datura, to force mindlessness. He had a section about blowfish consumption, specifically fugu, and since then I have really wanted to try it. Not for the intent of reaching a near death state, but because of the risk/thrill of it.

I have extremely bad luck so i know if i ever did try it something bad would happen. Im not ready to risk death for a good meal lol. Besides, the fish itself is too cute to eat. xD Id rather keep it as a pet haha.

When I was in Japan as an exchange student ten years ago, my host father's birthday celebration include fugu sashimi, fugu hotpot and champagne. I found it rather decadent and knew it would be a great story to take back with me to the States. I would indulge again so long as I had no reason to suspect the preparing establishment. In terms of food-related deaths, I think you're almost more likely to choke to death on mochi. Perhaps not, but still, the risk of death from fugu is extremely low when compared to one's risk in general.

I would probably not unless I went to Japan and to a reputable place. I love sashimi but am considering only eating sustainable fish. There are a couple of sushi restaurants in Seattle that offer this choice. :O)

If I knew for absolute certain that it was a reliable chef who'd never had any incidents, I'd try it. But cooked, raw fish is something I simply cannot eat, I've tried and couldn't handle the texture. Still, I'm adventurous enough that I'd try it.

We had Fugu at Sushi Yasuda (in NYC) in May but it was the domestic type, bred poison-free. It was nice but not note-worthy. The Chef told me it tastes different in Japan so I'll likely try it when I'm in Japan one day, but I'll be doing a lot of research first.

I had the chance to eat fugu several times during my time living in Japan. The first time was at a lovely restaurant in Osaka, and the other times were in Tokyo. I thoroughly enjoyed it every time. It's a mild, somewhat sweet fish, very nice as sashimi, and really good fried (but then, what isn't good fried?). I think that as long as the people who are preparing and serving it are licensed, then it's fine. If you look at the statistics of deaths from fugu, around 98% of the deaths from fugu were those where the fugu was prepared by people at home, uneducated in what they needed to know about preparing fugu. So while that does leave a small chance of going from poisoning at a restaurant, to me, it's not worse than the chances I take otherwise in life. I'm actually putting together a trip to take friends to a restaurant in NYC to partake of some fugu.

I had the chance to eat fugu several times during my time living in Japan. The first time was at a lovely restaurant in Osaka, and the other times were in Tokyo. I thoroughly enjoyed it every time. It's a mild, somewhat sweet fish, very nice as sashimi, and really good fried (but then, what isn't good fried?). I think that as long as the people who are preparing and serving it are licensed, then it's fine. If you look at the statistics of deaths from fugu, around 98% of the deaths from fugu were those where the fugu was prepared by people at home, uneducated in what they needed to know about preparing fugu. So while that does leave a small chance of going from poisoning at a restaurant, to me, it's not worse than the chances I take otherwise in life. I'm actually putting together a trip to take friends to a restaurant in NYC to partake of some fugu.

I have been to Japan on 2 separate occasions and was offered by my gracious Japanese friends a chance at eating Fugu, and I had refused both times. Fugu is so expensive, I certainly did not feel at all nice if we ate this dangerous dish and something happened- somehow the locals never felt it was dangerous, it probably was a Gaijin thingy.

I most certainly would not eat Fugu. There are so many fantastic food and simple delights at every corner in Japan that cost very little so why commit your life to something so expensive and possibly fatal.

Notwithstanding, being with the Japanese people and having studied your culture, I think everything Japanese is set in rigid rules and regulations. There is also so much protocol to follow for everything one undertakes- from traveling (Japanese guidebooks tell you specifically what to do, what to eat etc) to the trivial (there is a shocking number of guidelines available).

I think the act of eating Fugu equalizes everyone. While there is ranking outside but at the table, everyone is an equal, partaking an equal amount of risks and of their own choice.

Also, since everything has a rigid sort of outcome, the risks of eating Fugu provides a romantic notion of something different. While the outcome could be quite disastrous but I think from reading enough Japanese literature, that death is a romantic ideal too.

Fugu. Yes I have tried it but wouldn't go out of my way to have it again. My father occasionally prepares it and feeds it to the family. He eats it first before he served it up to the rest of the family. But he's catches the blowfish himself and has been fishing and preparing fish since he was able to walk. Taste fairly light and pleasant but there are tastier things in the world that don't have the chance to kill me instantly.

I don't think I would try this, I think it's too risky and I'm not really attracted to danger in general.

In my pre-Vegan days I have eaten fugu in Dotonbori, Osaka. Totally underwhelming. I had sashimi and tempura. Really not a big deal, I have eaten weirder stuff than fugu.

While I would be curious to taste fugu and have trust in the chefs to prepare it in a non-poisonous way, I recently saw a documentary about fugu on tv, that shocked me. Apparently they cut up the fish while it is still alive to have it served as fresh as possible! The fish is fileted in full consciousness, with the chefs taking care not to pierce any of the inner organs so it will stay alive as along as possible! I find that so incredible, nightmarishly cruel, I would never eat this fish at a restaurant, where this way of preparing fugu is practiced. (This reminded me of a 'recipe' from the middle ages I once read, that had instructions for roasting a duck in a way that it would be still alive while being eaten. Horrible and unnecessary!)
The fish would not be any less fresh if it had been killed right before cutting it up and serving, so I don't understand why it is done that way?

But I would certainly try fugu if I knew they had killed it BEFORE cutting it up.

first i was going to say no , but on second thoughts i probably would , it's the same thing with wild mushrooms which are one of my favorites

Considering that I currently find myself living in Shimonoseki which is the fugu-capital of Japan (everything from the busses to the sewer lids are branded with cartoon fugu) I have had the chance to try it. It is indeed delicious, though no tingling lips or sensation of any sort. I've so far only been able to try fugu sushi but I look forward to trying fugu nabe sometime soon... there was a big festival about a week ago to celebrate the launch of fugu season!

i think if a fugu dish was ordered at my table, and everyone was sampling some, i would try a little piece too. just out of curiosity. but i doubt i would do it more than once - i don't see any reason to tempt fate. and anyway i would probably be very anxious about it, enough so that i'd start imagining the onslaught of poisoning symptoms. and what kind of way is that to enjoy a meal? my boyfriend had it when he was in japan and said it was ok, but that it really wasn't delicious enough to be worth the risk.

You'd have to pay me to eat it- and even then I might turn you down. I like fish as much as the next person but really, no meal is worth chancing death over.

Just think about it this way- would you eat a cake if you knew there was poison around the edges? Sure, you could eat from the center and probably be fine but is that cake really worth it?

Someone seeking "adventure" might try other avenues.

I lived in Japan for 7 years and have been traveling there for over 20 years. During this time I have had the opportunity to eat Fugu many times and in many forms. During the time I lived in Japan I learned that most people who get sick or die from Fugu poisoning are people who Have gone fishing and caught the fish and attempted to clean it themselves. It is a relatively common fish, easy to catch and because it is such an expensive delicacy some people who catch one think it is worth the risk to prepare it themselves often with fatal results. I enjoy the delicate taste and beautiful presentation of Fugu sashimi. One of my favorite Fugu related things is called Fugu Zake which is the fin of the Fugu fish after having been deep fried is immersed in warm sake so that the sake becomes infused with the flavor of the fish. It is an unusual but very delicious way to drink sake and I highly recommend it to anyone if you ever have a chance to try it. Personally I would never pass up an opportunity to eat Fugu in a certified restaurant.

I would definitely try it at least once. Even citing the risk involved, I think it would be neat to say that one was not afraid and tried it anyway in an attempt to understand more about the food and culture of Japan. When I have Japanese food it tells me a lot about the people that created it and the area that it came from, and in a way I feel like I'm a little closer to the Japanese (as silly as that might sound).
Having something besides sushi and miso soup does worlds of good for people in helping form their opinions of things, and eating fugu would give a thrill on top of furthering their knowledge and respect.
I also like the idea of being able to tell my family and friends that I tried it and didn't die from it. I'm the one in my family notorious for trying new and crazy things, and I would love to add fugu to my list! It would be right up there with the grilled fishheads I had in Kyoto and the jellyfish salad I had in Tokyo. I loved those, and I'm sure I'd love the fugu!

Absolutely. On my death bed. Just to brag to the other angels that I tried it, and they're all sissies! ;P

Never. What's the point? There are so many things that you can eat, why choose something that can be bad for you?

I don't think that many other cultures in the world would start eating poisonous stuff, unless they have to.

We ate fugu at one of the ryokan we stayed at during our honeymoon, as part of the kaiseki dinner. We didn't order it specifically, but it came as one of the kaiseki courses. I suspected it was fugu as soon as I saw it. I was a little afraid to try it, but I wanted to try as many new things as I could during my trip. (I also thought it would be rude to leave it--not to mention that it was beautifully presented!) I had confidence in the ryokan's preparation methods since they specialized in kaiseki and had been preparing this kind of food for a long time. In the end, both my husband and I decided to go ahead and just eat it. We were glad that we did! The fugu pieces themselves were very mild in flavor, but combined with the condiments, it was really delicious.

Lots of other foods that we eat, from rhubarb to cashews, can be mildly to very toxic if it's prepared incorrectly. (Not to mention that even spinach in a bag can be deadly...)

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Having lived in Japan; especially in the late 80's when lavish corporate spending was at its height, there were a lot of foods being highlighted in Japanese cuisine. Especially to "shock and awe" Western Businessmen-women. I believe that it is now also the season for Dojo as well? Watching the little guys scramble into a block of tofu in a hot pot, although very tasty, was not my idea of a good time. I'm getting less "comfortable" with live things flailing around on a grill, or Sashimi rituals for that matter. Fugu falls into that category for me. I DO understand the reverence for freshness, and the almost ritualistic delight that is taken in "How fresh can it get"? Japanese cuisine is my favorite because of this.
Maybe I did have fugu at a corporate Kaiseki dinner, but my point here is that it is also Matsutake Mushroom season. Here in LA, they're going for $60 a lb. If I were in Japan, at a Ryokan in Kyoto, I would be begging for dobin-mushi right about now.

I would be happy to try Fugu some day. The only reason why I have not yet is due to the price. It can be quite expensive, correct?

The fact that there is a small chance that you can become very ill or even die from eating it has no bearing on my desire to eat it whatsoever. Nowadays eating just about anything that you or a well trusted person has not grown and prepared yourself/themselves is risking severe illness or even death. Look at the number of food scares that we had last year in the United States for example. There was that whole spinach thing and the peanut butter thing. It is true that Fugu is different in that there is an inherent danger and not a manmade danger like the produce we get from factory farms, however I am quite confident that any reputable establishment will serve Fugu properly and the risk associated with it is no greater than the risk of eating just about any other food.

I would, I think. Probably about 90%.
It depends on the establishment and how comfortable I feel with their skill in preparing the fish.

I've eaten a lot of things before that I didn't think I'd like and they turned out great. Other things, like grasshopper tacos or sweetbreads, I'm glad I tried, but I didn't like. At least I won't have any regrets!

Well, I ate a lot of "odd" foods growing up -- my grandparents are from the Philippines and Mexico, where plenty of non-traditional foods are eaten. My Mexican grandfather was also a butcher, too, before retiring a few years ago. As a child, I happily ate snails, abalone, tripe, game (like venison and rabbit), and organ meats.

As an adult who is now mostly vegetarian, I wouldn't go out of my way to eat fugu. But, if the opportunity presented itself, I'm adventurous enough to try it. I've eaten plenty of raw seafood in my lifetime that I'm sure I'd like it well enough.

For those that like to eat fugu, as long as you're aware of the dangers and trust the restaurant serving it, why not eat it? As far as the thrill or danger of eating fugu goes, there are plenty of things that can kill us, but that shouldn't stop anyone from enjoying life's pleasures.
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I think I would very much like to try fugu. Reading the blogs made me curious on what it taste like.

To be honest, it never occurred to me that eating fugu at a Japanese restaurant (or prepared by anyone with a suitable license) would be dangerous. Goodness knows we have enough foods in Europe that are lethal if not made, treated or stored correctly - Botulism laced sausages anyone?
I thought that, nowadays, the deaths were all related to amateurs/fishermen deciding they were capable of isolating the toxin for themselves (just as Roy R described).
From what I understand, the taste of fugu is very delicate and subtle so I'm not sure I'd appreciate it. Seems a lot to pay for something I may not value... Frankly, there are lots of Japanese foods I've yet to try that are higher up on my list, but if it was cheaper I would have definitely have eaten it by now.
Strange how all this attention has gone to fugu - isn't mochi related to many more deaths in Japan? Now THAT'S a food I eat with caution and never when I'm alone by myself!
I should mention that despite me believing prepared fugu to be safe, I would never have eaten it whilst pregnant and would turn it down now as a breastfeeding mother.

Last december we went to a restaurant in Osaka specializing in fugu dishes and I was quite thrilled about trying it for the first time.

We ordered one of their kaiseki meals and had fugu prepared in many different ways, including being fried, as sashimi and in a hotpot.

I must say that I wasn't very impressed by the taste though. It seemed overly rubbery when raw but a little bland otherwise.

It might be because we had been having the popular and definitely much more savoury crab kaiseki meals and expected that same richness in flavour. If I had to try it again I would, but at a more traditional restaurant to highlight the experience.

Thanks for including the great info on fugu :)

I had it quite a few times with co-workers when I was living in Japan. Nabe, sashimi, tempura, shirako, hire-zake, multi-course tora-fugu meals, etc. I even went to Shimonoseki to try it. I kept trying to experience this tingling sensation that everyone kept talking about. But nary a twinge. While the novelty factor is appealing, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. For the same amount of money, there are so many other tastier delicacies in Japan to try.

I've had fugu once, back in my homeland, Singapore - it was served as part of a sushi a la carte buffet. The variety offered at that place was amazing - even awabi, although that day they had unfortunately ran out of stock - but my dining partner and I got a serving of fugu nigiri served to us as part of the standard flow of dishes. It was chewy, mild and delicately sweet - and I can say I've already tried it, heh. And we didn't know it was fugu until we asked the chef.

I would probably eat fugu only at a place that's been established for a fairly long time and has a good reputation - and then, not all that readily. Give me sashimi or shioyaki over fugu anytime, any day.

Speaking of fugu, I was at Amanohashidate recently, and saw bunches of them, all dried and sold as ornaments, supposedly to ward off evil.

I certainly would. Though I would definately go somewhere that I know has a good chef, because I want to be able to trust them not to poison their diners.
As far as the weird and wonderful world of Japanese cuisine goes, I admire them for their sense of taste. When I am cooking it feels like I'm being surrounded by this amazing culture and it's tastes. Some of the choices appear bizzare, yes, but they are also quite tasty and, I find, very healthy. This is what food is all about. As far as eating a poisonous fish goes, well, it's not that weird when you think about all the other foods we cut around, such as rubarb leaves.
I hope when I finally visit Japan I will be able to try fugu myself!

I personally wouldn't try it. No delicacy is worth dying over, and there is plenty of other tasty sushi to be had.

I am a bit ashamed to say that I, and I think many other Americans, think of Japan as having a pretty repressed society in a lot of ways. So, culturally-sanctioned daring feats like eating poisonous fugu seems like a way for very conservative businessmen, etc. to do something really really daring, especially if they're adding poison to the dish!

I wouldn't. Even if I love fish, there are (literally) other fish in the sea ! I don't think that any food is worth dying for.
I'm Brazilian, and in Brazil you can find a close cousin of the fugu, it's called "baiacu". I've caught some myself when I went fishing with my dad as a kid. But we always put it back into the sea, we never ate it. I do know that quite a lot of people in Brazil eat it, as it's an easy catch, and not only certified chefs cook it. It's said to be delicious and the people who eat it also mention the thrill of eating poisonous stuff. I'm quite curious and I've tasted a lot of things that may look/taste weird, but I'm not tempted at all by fugu nor baiacu!

As much bad luck as I've had with food poisoning, (three times), I wouldn't try it, because I have a feeling I'd be that unlucky person who really would get poisoned. I'm pretty adventurous in trying foods too. I love ox tail soup and squid.

I've spent a pretty lengthy period of time in Japan and I never tried fugu. However, before I went this was always something people talked about; will you eat blowfish? Of course I know of the dangers of eating this type of meat but, at the same time it seems to be one of those cultural experiences I'd want to have only once. After that, assuming I enjoyed the experience, I wouldn't want to test fate any further.

Great post!

It's like mountain climbing or some other extreme sport, you might die, but at least you had fun doing it. When I see that it's deadly and people eat it anyways, it makes me think of the history of samurai in Japan. Although I am not Japanese, and probably don't know 1/1000 of the information about Samurai as a Japanese person would, I do remember learning that the Samurai were very brave and had high morals. The chance of dying in eating fugu makes me think that the samurai culture might subtly still be alive Japan today, although I really wouldn't know. Please pardon my ignorance.

As for me, I don't think I could bring myself to try fugu. But when I think more about it, I think that maybe if I went to Japan, and that if it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I would. Just so I wouldn't feel like a wuss compared to everyone else. :]

Given how lax the American food regulation departments are at actually REGULATING the poisons, toxins, and fatal diseases in the foods that make it onto our tables, I feel that taking a once a year stab at death by fubu is far outshadowed by my former days shopping at major markets where the meats, canned veggies, or, frick, peanut butter (!) are getting recalled because someone got sick and died from these staple grocery items.
Would I take the chance? Probably not. Cuz if you can't tell... I don't take chances with the food I eat now, but it's not any scarier than high fructose corn syrup.

::steps down from soap box::


I would definitely try it. I don't know why, maybe the thrill of eating something dangerous may taste good.

I'd totally try it if it were prepared by an experienced chef in an established restaurant. But I think I'd only try it once, just to see what it tastes like. There are so many other wonderful things to eat - it doesn't make sense to risk one's life over a mere fish!

I lived in Japan for several years and for my birthday decided to go to a fugu restaurant. I had a five course meal with fugu in various states - sashimi, deep fried, etc. I enjoyed it tremendously but on the balance I feel it's mostly a dish that you have for the back-story that surrounds it ( a type of food I have a real weakness for, having tried foods as wide-ranging as battered huhu grubs ( a New Zealand native grub ) to raw horse meat sushi and honey roasted locusts ).

Definitely a delicious fish but not worth all the fuss in my opinion.

I would love to have the chance to try it, but only in Japan at a certified restaurant. I'm a big fan of sashimi, and I love the chance to try new things. As for what people think of me for wanting to eat it, I already have enough people who think I'm crazy for eating raw fish and put me down for it, adding fugu to that list really won't change anything.

I'd probably not, but I'm also the kind of person that actually waits for the green light at crossings. =)

We'll see though - still saving up for that big Japan trip!

[PS: Your sukiyaki recipe rocks - just made it for dinner =) ]

I would try it! If it tasted delicious, I would eat it again. My husband and I have had this on our list of things to do when we visit Japan.

Yes I would like to try fugu. However, it is very far down on the list of things I would like to try, and this particular food adventure would require some caution, mostly in being sure to select a certified restaurant and chef.

I would never consume fugu with poison added.

I know that most fugu-related deaths are from the untrained attempting to serve it, but I would probably not eat fugu--I'm not a risk-taker. Rather, since the ability to prepare fugu shows such a high amount of skill, I would like to order a meal to see a fugu chef's skill demonstrated with a different fish. Since nobody has made the observation that fugu's taste is wildly amazing, I'll stick to other fish.

I wouldn't pin fugu-eating to a particular aspect of Japanese culture--I'd prefer to say people in general. People have always enjoyed risk-taking to impress others, especially in today's society, and eating fugu shows boldness. Maybe for some people, the ability to eat fugu is the equivalent of being able to drink everyone else under the table (note that I said "some," not "everyone"). Maybe being able to afford fugu is a status symbol. Maybe the risk is just fun. But deliberately putting fugu poison on one's lips sounds insane to me--is life so tedious that such a risk is really worth it?

I think I would try it, if only for the story factor--to be able to say that I had tried it.

It seems a much pleasanter sort of thrill than, say, bungee jumping, which is also perfectly safe if done correctly, and lethal if something goes wrong. (I only say that because I am afraid of heights, and hold nothing against people who like to bungee jump.)

It's like Russian roulette to me, even if the odds are slightly better. I find it irresponsible that anyone would eat it, and only slightly less so than someone committing suicide.

i am going on a trip to korea and then to japan during CNY... and i am definitely definitely putting "eat fugu" on my list of things to do. the first time i visited japan, i was too scared (and probably too cheap), but this time i am ready! i really want to try this special delicacy, to know what all the fuss is about! :)

Both I and my significant other adore Japanese food. He's willing to try anything once and to a far less braver extent so am I. However, if we both agreed we were going to try Fugu it would be only one way. One plate, two forks. One feeds the others bite at the same time. If our number is up, well... it's not Shakespeare but at least the risk was fair on both ends.

That is actually terribly romantic in an um, weird way ^_^

I have had Fugu. We tried fugu sashimi and fugu served 'KFC style' at Morimoto's in Philadelphia.

I would say, other than knowing in advance what we were ordering, there was nothing particularly mystical or especially memorable with the dishes we tasted. Don't get me wrong, they were tasty enough. But if you had told me after the fact that we had tasted fugu, I wouldn't have known much difference.

Does a culture that eats something potentially poisonous say something about that culture? Maybe that the first person to try it was pretty hungry. Cassava root and Hakarl, both poisonous unless processed correctly are good examples of it.

We ordered fugu mainly just to say we did. I'm a big proponent of trying new things regardless of how different or weird it maybe. But then again, I'm asian so I'm used to eating strange things. :)

I'm actually quite surprised by the number of people here who say that they've eaten fugu, but I guess that's what I get for reading comments on a food blog ;)

Anyway! To answer the question, I would never try it. Ever. I'm just not willing to take that risk! As for any 'weird' perceptions of Japanese people about eating it for the risk... I can't really consider it weird since there are plenty of others (from other cultures) who are only interested in eating it for the risk. Basically I can't consider it strange in a uniquely Japanese sense, as I think that it's strange for anyone to want to try it. That's my opinion, anyway.

To be honest, I don't believe I would! It doesn't really even look appetising.


Yes indeed I would! All the descriptions of people who've tasted it have said it was delicious, and I just love fish. It would be a taste I would like to have and remember.

That being said I would group in to the "haggis" and "black sausage" category of things I've tasted. Tasty and glad I tried it but never again.

To echo most of the other commenters here:

I'd make sure it was prepared by a reputable chef to minimise the chances of poisoning but if you look at the risk, it is probably riskier to drive a car than to eat fugu.

Hmmm...I wouldn´t, just because I pity the fish lying there, it looks so ´whole´, that I wish it would be alive...so no, I wouldn´t eat it for different reasons then the fish being so poisonous

I never gave this much thought, but recently found myself at a sushi place called Origami in Minneapolis, MN, which had the distinction of getting the first license to serve fugu in Minnesota. Maybe if I had read this article first I'd have been more dubious, but I'll eat pretty much anything, so heartily agreed when my fiance suggested we order it. They were offering a sample selection that included fugu sashimi, kara-age (not sure on the spelling), which is the fried jawbone that I think some other folks were talking about above, and, what I found most incredible, a glass of hot sake with the tailfin of the fish in it. Upon arrival, our waiter set fire to the sake and the fin, which imparted an incredible, almost truffley flavor to the sake. While the kara-age just tasted like fried fish, and the sashimi seemed underwhelming, when I tasted it with the sake it took on this ethereal sweet/lightness. The flavor of the fish itself did not amaze me, but the sake/fin combo was pretty wonderful. Not worth dying for, perhaps, but tasty nonetheless. I suffered no ill effects.

Never i would eat them.

Puffer fishes are just too nice fellas. I can not remember who did say it, but it is right. They are little clowns.

Never had a tame one in a tank? Oh you missed something..even when i would not recommend to do that without the right equipment.

A Puffy could bite you badly, but they will get tame very fast and behave much like dogs..in the meaning that they recognize you and you can feed them by hand.

Believe it or not, fishes can itch and love a good scratch. Better not by hand because the bacterias there could cause your puffy an infection. But it is just too nice to watch when the fishes rubs itself with delight against the net, or whatever you hold in your hand when you put it in the water.

Also the sad image of my childhood hunts me when poor puffy was caught by my father and turned into a dangling lantern which moved in the warm air above the masonry heater whenever i had to take a bath.

And i also do not feel any pity with a person who gets ill after eating fugu.
Why have people to eat everything? Like the endangered giant sharks, the small quails which hd been believbed to be vanished until they have been found on a meat market again...maybe even the last of them.

And the eels are so endagered that they may vanish in 5 to 10 years if people do not stop eating them. The eels which are in europe and the hatched youngs are called glass eels and are such a delicacy.

Fishermen are only able to catch 1% of the mass of fish then 50 years before..but people want to eat eel..no matter if it will mean that the eel join the dodo or tasmanian wolf in extinction soon.

If people want to get the *pleasure* of eating dangerous food i can really have no pity if they die. They know the risk, they obviously rather take the risk to kill themselves than care about the people they leave behind in that case. Same with dangerous sports.
Some special food or jumping from a bridge with a rope around your feet is more important then the risk to kill you and leave your beloved ones in mysery..why should i care.

I just feel sad about family and friends and the pain they have to go through.

It is like running on the street without caring for the red light..maybe exciting but everyone knows it will get you killed sooner or later

I tried it years ago when I visited my matriarchal branch in Kyushu. I prefer fattier fish and now that I have a saltwater aquarium with a pufferfish, I would pass... they now fall in the category of pet!

Ever since I saw a live puffer fish accidentally beach itself during low tide in Kauai, I would never be able to eat one. They have the MOST beautiful eyes with such a pure, sweet expression. I know it may sound silly, but it completely touched me. We put it back in the water, of course, by rolling it in gently with a stick we found laying nearby.

I would try Fugu but would want to eat it at a good resturaunt in Japan, not the United States. It is not the risk of death I am after, but the chance to eat a rare delicacy that could stimulate my tastebuds.

This is something I might order if I was about to die anyways. May as well not have to worry about dying right?

I HAVE! It was my first time in japan and I was treated by a friend of a friend and a bunch of his business men friends...(I felt like a zoo animal). Anyways, it was a restaurant that specialized in fugu; I had fugu sashimi, fugu stew, fugu on a grill...etc. I think there were one or two more other ways that it was served to us. It was tasty but I did get a little worried when my tongue felt a little numb but apparently it wasnt a big deal as I am still alive. ^o^
I say try it if you get the chance, eating fugu is safer than driving in a car right? Taking chances makes you feel alive!

my mom and i are from yamaguchi but i think fugu is odd

I love the article, and the site. I don't recommend eating fugu. We lived in Iidabashii for six years. During that time my husband ate fugu at a work-related function, and he became deaf for about three months. I will eat anything, but at this point anything but fugu. --Also we owned a beach house in Kamogawa (where there is excellent Maguro to be had.) Fugu were very common in the water. Full-time residents approached me on a weekly basis to make sure I knew not to allow my son to touch the dead fugu we often found on the shore. While everyone's intention is nice, it got to be a little old to hear the same story.

would and have. the thing you'll want to look for is that the sushi chef has been licensed to prepare this dish because it is rather deadly if it is not prepared with the utmost care but it is a rather interesting one it will leave your mouth slightly numb (the tingling sensation that you get when your foot falls asleep) when you eat it and the flavor is very good

I'm not saying I'd make a habit of it, but I'd like to try. What's life without a little risk? I can understand those Japanese who think that the danger is part of the enjoyment, too.

Last week the school I work at had an enkai at a special fugu restaurant in Kokura. It wasn't my first time by it was definitely the most memorable since the fugu and shirako came in all sorts of forms (raw, grilled, tempura, karaage, boiled in nabe). The shirako, which I presume is the roe (?), was a first for me and it reminded me of eating the inside of a cream croquette. Oishikatta!

I'm from a place called Yamaguchi and even though practically everything is about fuku ( Yamaguchi ben for fugu) I like eating it.

I'm from Guatemala City, and have lived in the Los Angeles, CA area for 25 years. I started eating Sushi about 10 years ago, and let me tell you i'm hooked. Had Fugu at this whole in the wall in Canoga Park called "Go Sushi", "Go's Mart" or just "Go's" (the clientele calls it all those names). The experience was fantastic, Sashimi style with just white truffle oil and French sea salt. It's expensive? yes. it's dangerous? nope, if the chef knows how to handle it!!! Can't wait to have it again.

By teh way shirako is fish milt (fish sperm sack (full of sperm))

I haven't tried it, but I totally would. I'll try almost any food item once (I say 'almost any' because I've heard of some things- cheese filled with live maggots for instance...that even I will not eat.) But if I trust the chef that prepared it knows what he (or she) is doing, I certainly would try it once and probably will. :)

I would not risk my life just to have a tasty fish. But, since there are people in japan who are ready to risk there life just to have a taste of fugu....i am trying to find out an antidote for fugu poisoning so people can enjoy it without any risk and so do I.

If Fugu is so poisonous and takes so much care to even eat them, why did anybody go through the trouble to even figure out how to do it in the first place? Surly starvation couldn't have been the reason? Poison is poison why not just leave it at that and leave them alone?

I'd be happy to try fugu, but only if made by a properly certified chef. They know what they're doing (as evidenced by the incredible safety record of Japanese fugu restaurants), and I'd trust their skill.

I wouldn't do it,unless a hot chick was there but then id look pretty stupid when id die.

I would love to try pufferfish, but I would be sure toeat it while lying in hostpital just in case.

Fugu fish are amazing. So is Japan. If only there was a Vocaloid based off a fugu fish...

Will like to taste the fugu shashimi just once. Must be costly with all the proper preparations. Which Japanese restaurant in Singapore serves it?
Have been working for some time in the past in Chikoyotei and Ichiban Sushi Ramen as cook. Never seen fugu, only unagi (eel), ebi (prawn), tako (octopus) saba (type of yellowfin), salmon.

A documentary showed how the poor fish is prepared.

Torn apart - ALIVE - piece by piece. The eyes gouged out, organs removed, while the fish is still conscious.

(So called) 'humans)' do that. The vile practice must be banned.

You must have seen something else. Fugu is usually cut up when it's quite still and dead. A live wriggling fish is liable to be pierced in the wrong way.


Also, I hope you are a dedicated vegan. If you're being so dramatic about the way living things are killed for human consumption, and eating meat and fish, then you're a hypocrite.