How dangerous is it to eat fugu?

Fugu Pufferfish - A delicious and dangerous delicacy

The fugu puffer fish is one poisonous Japanese delicacy. Eating the fish can be fatal for humans. In Germany, fugu fish are not allowed to be prepared due to the highly dangerous poison. In Japan, the consumption of the fugu puffer fish is considered to be important cultural asset and luxurious food at the same time.


Fugu puffer fish

The poisonous puffer fish is caught in various Japanese port cities. To the most famous regions belongs to the City of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture. In these regions there is a water temperature of 13 degrees on the seabed, which is preferred by the fish.


How is the fugu puffer fish prepared?

The non-toxic part of the meat is considered special delicacy in selected Japanese restaurants. In order to be able to enjoy this, the toxic parts of the body such as the liver, intestines and roe are removed. Depending on the species of fish, the skin, too, must be deadly tetrodotoxin contains, can be removed using a special preparation technique. A special license is required for the preparation of the deadly fish. This also applies to catching and trading.

The genus Takifugu rubripes, on the other hand, is only bred in captivity to avoid the danger of poison. Because the Takifugu rubripes is generally not poisonous, but forms this only through the ingestion of TTX-containing organisms. They are fed a special TTX-free feed during breeding. Because of this, this type of fugu is poison-free. In fact, there is no risk of death from poisoning when consumed in this way.


Which restaurants offer the dangerous specialty?

In Japan will this type of fish is served in restaurantsthat are on the Specialized in preparation of the expensive delicacy are . A restaurant of this type is usually recognized by an inflated puffer fish in the entrance area. The dried fugu shows that the respective restaurant has a corresponding license. The consumption of poisonous animal can be potentially fatalbecause the small fish contains enough poison tetrododoxin to kill an adult human.

This is precisely why the poisonous puffer fish is considered to be spectacular delicacywhich is known beyond Japan's borders. Because in most other countries the preparation of the animal is strictly forbidden. In Japanese restaurants, the fugu may only be filleted by specially trained chefs. The deadly nerve poison is mainly contained in the internal organs of the animal. A Japanese cook has to take the fish apart and fillet it carefully with the utmost precision. This is the only way to guarantee the safety of the guest.


How does the boxfish taste?

A Japanese proverb says "Fugu wa kuitashi, inch wa oshishi" (in German: I want to eat puffer fish, but I depend on my life). With this proverb, the Japanese summed up the fascination for eating boxfish. Because theoretically it could be the last meal. Fortunately, reported deaths from tetrodotoxin are now minimal, no more than 11 deaths in the past decade. The deaths can also be traced back to private households in which the boxfish was prepared by oneself.


How is a fugu meal served?

Fugu is very popular raw as sashimi as part of a full Japanese menu in a Fugu restaurant.
The trained cook cuts the animal into very thin slices, the almost transparent are. When eating, five to ten wafer-thin slices are picked up with the chopsticks and dipped in a little soy sauce. On the other hand, Fugu can also be in the style of Karaage be prepared. This is a Japanese style of deep-frying. Another possibility is the fugu in one hub, to enjoy a soup.


Learn more about the Japanese sushi specialty "Sashimi":


This is how you become a fugu cook

Training to become a fugu cook
belongs to the toughest training in gastronomy. This is also important because even a minimal dose of tetrodotoxin can kill a person. Apply to chefs strict guidelines and Laws. Fugu can only be served in restaurants with an appropriate license. This also explains the luxurious price for a menu with fugu sashimi. Depending on the preparation and the type of restaurant, it costs between 60 and 150 euros.

Due to its tetrodotoxin content, the highly poisonous animal cannot be imported anywhere in Europe. In purely theoretical terms, German chefs can still complete their training to become a Fugu chef. In Tokyo one lasts Training five to seven years including an internship and final exam.


An overview of a typical fugu menu in Japan

  • In the first course there is fugu sashimi with wafer-thin slices cut in the shape of flowers. There is also soy sauce and possibly some ponzu
  • Next is often fried fugu karaage
  • The third course is served as a soup or hub
  • A particularly dangerous and forbidden delicacy is raw pieces of boxfish liver. Since the level of tetrodotoxin varies from fish to fish, it is not possible to assess whether one bite is fatal.


The effects of tetrodotoxin

The pharmacist and chemist Dr. Bernhard Peter describes the effects of the deadly poison in his book. It is one of the most powerful non-protein poisons. With a lethal dose of 0.5 to 1.5 milligrams it is a most dangerous and potent poison to an adult. The danger is also extremely high due to the fast acting time with paralysis and death occurs with full consciousness.


How does the effect of the neurotoxin tetrodotoxin show?

Tetrodotoxin belongs to the deadliest neurotoxins and is found primarily in the animal's liver, intestines and roe. Symptoms of poisoning include tingling of the tongue, lips, and arms, as well as numbness in the mouth and incoordination. It ends deadly with shortness of breath and paralysis all over the body, including the respiratory muscles. Death from pufferfish poison occurs quickly due to suffocation or circulatory failure. Other fish, such as the blue ringed squid, also contain tetrodotoxin.


How many varieties of puffer fish are there?

The puffer fish include over 25 genera with 200 species. The most famous varieties are among others the Tiger fugu, the green puffer fish and the rabbit head puffer fish. The parrot puffer fish is recommended for keeping in an aquarium, as it only measures eight centimeters and is characterized by its peaceful nature. The smallest species is the Indian dwarf puffer fish. It comes from southern India and measures no more than three to four centimeters and feeds primarily on snails.

In the event of imminent danger, the puffer fish inflates itself into an inflated, thick ball. It is precisely this shape that gave it its name. When the puffer fish are in danger, they pump water into an extension of their innards. This results in the well-known erection of the spines on the hard shell of the entire body, which normally fit tightly. As a result, it is almost impossible for the predator to eat the puffer fish.


Conclusion: is the thrill worth it?

If you are looking for danger and also have the necessary budget, you should try the fish with the deadly poison only eat the traditional way at designated sushi restaurants in Japan. When the raw or fried slices are chewed, a small, non-lethal dose of the neurotoxin is released, creating a tingling sensation in the mouth. One or the other Japanese as well as Westerners claim that the fugu can otherwise taste rather bland. Incidentally, death from fugu poisoning is also often used as a topic in many well-known books and crime series in Japan.