Young Pioneer Tours

Fugu – potentially Lethal Delicacy

by Andy Khong

Fugu is a type of pufferfish/globefish/blowfish suffused with neurotoxin more potent than arsenic, cyanide or even anthrax, is considered a delicacy in Japan. It is also popular in some other countries, such as Korea (known as “bok”) and China (known as “hétún”) [Fugu is pronounced “Foo-Goo”]. 

The toxicity of Fugu comes from a powerful neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin (TTX), which is found in the liver, ovaries, and other organs of the fish. TTX is 1,000 times deadlier than cyanide, and there is no known antidote. In Japan, only licensed and trained chefs are allowed to prepare and serve Fugu, and they must follow strict regulations to ensure that the toxin is removed properly. Chefs need to undergo a minimal of at least three years training before they can take the Fugu certification test. There is a legal obligation to keep poisonous parts of Fugu removed during the preparation process in a special lockable storage container, and then have them incinerated at a fish market.

Fugu can be prepared in a variety of ways, including sashimi (raw slices), tempura, grilled, deep fried (karaage), congee, and hot pot; even the skin, and fins are cooked as separate dishes. It is known for its delicate flavour and chewy texture, as well as its high price tag due to the skill and expertise required to prepare it safely. Fugu are high in protein/collagen, low in calories, contain many nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, and are full of fibre, making them a tasty food that is great for health and beauty.


Fugu restaurant in Japan.

Fans of James Bond will recall in the 1963 movie “From Russia with Love”, Russian agent Colonel Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) attacking James Bond (Sean Connery) with a poison-laced hidden blade in her shoe. In the following James Bond movie “Dr No” (which was released a year later), M [Chief of Secret Intelligence Service MI6] was told (about the poison-laced hidden blade), “Taken us three months. It was a bright chap at the School of Tropical Medicine who came up with it. The drug was fugu poison. The Japanese use it for committing suicide. It comes from the sex organs of the Japanese globe-fish. Trust the Russians to use something no one’s ever heard of”.   


“From Russia with Love” movie, Colonel Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) with poison-laced hidden blade in her shoe which she used to attack James Bond (Sean Connery). The poison is from Fugu fish which paralyses the muscles and the victim is unable to breathe, and eventually dies from asphyxiation.

If you are interested in trying Fugu, it is important to do your research and find a reputable restaurant with a licensed Fugu chef. In Japan, there are many restaurants that specialize in Fugu, particularly in the cities of Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo. The most prized and most poisonous Fugu is called Torafugu, which is Tiger Puffer Fish.


Torafugu or Tiger Fugu: best tasting blowfish.

Now that you know that there is an appealing and potentially lethaldelicacy as Fugu, would you try this “deadly pleasure” the next time you are in Japan?

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