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Updated on July 4, 2011

Fugu both Delicious and Deadly

If you tell some people that something is an aphrodisiac they are very likely to want to try it regardless of whether it passed through the digestive tract of an Elephant or a Civet Cat or consists of gound up Beetles. Probably the most famous, and expensive of all aphrodisiac foods is Fugu. Fugu is the prepared flesh taken from a number of different species of Blowfish. This includes Takifugu vermicularis amongst others. Fugu is not just a pricey and reputedly delicious dish it is also one of the riskiest. Here the you eat your meal hand in hand with the possibiliies of sudden death. Fugu, unless it is prepared properly will kill you. There is no known antidote for the tetrodotoxin which is a thousand times more poisonous than cyanide.

A numbness and tingling to the lips, cheeks, fingers, toes and naughty bits are often felt by Fugu eaters. Some say this is the poison at work but a similar but not as thorough experience can be had from eating Skate which is sometimes known as "tickle fish" in parts of the UK for this very reason. An ill prepared Fugu means the diner will experience paralysis and being totally unable to move will not be able to breathe and so die of oxygen starvation.

The tetrodotoxin from Fugu was long believed to be unique till it was discovered thousands of miles away in the egg clusters of a species of Californian Newt. Now it is known in the Blue Ringed Octopus, and Xanthid crabs.

The Fugu goes under a variety of 'English' names such as Blow fish, Puffer fish, Globe Fish and Balloon Fish.

The Simpsons brought Fugu to the worlds attention
The Simpsons brought Fugu to the worlds attention

Fugu is not Kosher

People of the Book are given warning.

"These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins  and scales shall ye eat: And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye  may not eat; it is unclean unto you"


All Fugu are smooth and without scales

Fugu is essentially a part of Japanese and Korean cuisine and outlets which sell it have to be licensed. Fugu chefs serve an apprenticeship and pass exams before they become qualified. Around 200 people still die of Fugu poisoning every year though these tend to be those who prepare the fish incorrectly at home. There are some supermarkets today which offer prepared Fugu.

In restaurants a Fugu meal will cost in the region of $100-150.

The Fugu dish remains a popular one. Today there are Fugu fish farms which grow on and supply both restaurant and markets. Purists say that the farmed fish are not as risky as the real thing and believe that is essential that some poison remains in the fish to give the aphrodisiac effect. With prompt attention a victim of Fugu poisoning can be saved if someone does the breathing for them until the poison has metabolised. Only about 60% of victims die.

That Fugu are now farmed is something of a blessing because the dish is increasing in popularity. 1 ton of Fugu is sold in New York each year and Hong Kong is second only to Japan as a consumer. It is only a matter of time before it becomes popular in China.

Eating Poison Fish

Old Japanese Saying

Those who eat fugu soup are stupid.
But those who don't eat fugu soup are also stupid.

Fugu Four Ways

Haiku by Buson

                                            I cannot see her tonight.
                                            I have to give her up
                                            So I will eat fugu.

On A Personal Note

Would I try Fugu? That would be a definite yes. Not especially for any supposed aphrodisiac effects, though those could be interesting, but because I like seafood and I like to try different foods. In fact I like to try to do something different every day. The taste of Fugu has been described as 'incomparable' and that's good enough for me.

As to the fish. The Puffer Fish and Porcupine Fish families are amongst my favourites to work with. They appear to have a much greater intelligence than other fish that I have dealt with. They do take an interest in what is going on around them both in the tank and outside. They recognise people and can become very affectionate. Strange to say that once they get to know you they like to be stroked, rather like a cat.

If it seems a bit odd to eat a creature I like I also like chickens, pigs, cows and more.


Submit a Comment

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia

    Maybe one day Ben. I did write it up somewhere about ten years back. If I find fact I will look this month.

    Best Wishes.

  • Ben Zoltak profile image

    Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

    Wow! That's an amazing story Peter, give me the heads up if that turns into a hub!

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia

    Thanks Ben. I was not actually slaughtering a buffalo but I was thrown into the rafters of a building by a Cape Buffalo some years ago. I remember hanging there and looking at my neatly lined up but vacated sandals.

  • Ben Zoltak profile image

    Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

    Thank you Peter my wife, daughter and I were just trying to remember the name of this dangerous delicacy. I'm with you, I like adventurous eating. I hear buffalo can also kill you while trying to prepare it for slaughter, only not with poison, only brute force, haha.

    I still can't believe 200 people a year die from eating it! Outrageous.


  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia

    Hello, hello,- True enough, there are other fish but this is said to be the most delicious of all. I prefer cod to haddock and cox apples to golden delicious. I would take the risk if it was properly prepared. I believe it would be a worthwhile and interesting new experience.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

    Thank you for your inside information. It buffles me to risk your life for fish to eat which is so highly poisoness. There are other fish.

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia

    Thank you and Kudos to you, you lucky man. I have yet to visit Japan. I will try it when I eventually get there. Happy New Year.

  • Edwin Clark profile image

    Edwin Clark 7 years ago from Thailand by way of New York

    Hey Peter, great info about Fugu. I only tried it once in Japan and to tell you the truth when my mouth got numb it was unsettling. I don't think I will ever want to try it again. Happy New Year my friend.