THE FUGU, DELICIOUS BUT PROHIBITED TO THE EMPEROR

Posted on November 11, 2013 by Luisa Fazio

I have always been fascinated by people from “the Rising Sun”. Their extreme pursuit of harmony, purity and refinement, their being a living ikebana, a fair balance, a simplicity  in gastronomy. In fact, Japanese food is sophisticated, light and fat-free. The white flesh of the puffer fish (fugu in Japan), has the particularity to swell up like a ball – ingesting a large quantity of water – when attacked or captured. It is one of the many delights for  palate. But its meat is to be considered “more delicious” than those of other fishes especially because you try to consume it in the thrill of risk. It’s a shiver of Russian roulette. “Make-or-break” occasion! We are facing a real “forbidden fruit” that leads into temptation true gourmets. Puffer fish contains tetrodotox in ovaries, liver and skin: a poison thousand times more powerful than cyanide that can kill a human being in a very short time. In Japanese restaurants where fugu is served, fugu-chefs must have a government license stating particular cooking skills in cutting that fish. They must carefully separate damaged and poisonous parts that from edible ones. This is a painstaking work, precise and meticulous, an art of great mastery. The pleasure is guaranteed by the fact that they must leave small and right amount of toxin in meat in order to give a slight dizziness and a tingling of the tongue. Pleasure and ecstasy, but not death. Despite aspiring chefs are prepared by a hard and long training and successful completion of a complex theoretical and practical examination (only 30-35% of test takers pass the test!) every year, many people die because of fugu, in spite of any antidote. I would eat sushi and sashimi twenty for seven. But when I discovered the existence of this Japanese delicacy I thought: courage, direct to Osaka (here you will find the best licensed restaurants with specialized chefs serve fugu). Waiter please, I’ll have a fugu sashimi! And here I would see coming all to myself a large ceramic plate with floral motifs full of fugu-sashi: thin slices, almost transparent white meat arranged radially like to remember a chrysanthemum. Oh my God, in Italy it is the flower of death!