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Fugu Pufferfisch - Eine köstliche und gefährliche Delikatesse

Fugu Pufferfisch - Eine köstliche und gefährliche Delikatesse

The Fugu Pufferfish is a poisonous Japanese delicacy. Consuming the fish can be fatal for humans. In Germany, Fugu fish cannot be prepared due to the highly dangerous toxin. In Japan, the consumption of Fugu Pufferfish is considered an important cultural asset and a luxurious food at the same time.

Fugu pufferfish

The poisonous Pufferfish is caught in various Japanese port cities. Among the most well-known regions is the city of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture. In these regions, the water temperature on the seafloor, preferred by the fish, is around 13 degrees.

How to prepare the fugu pufferfish?

The non-poisonous part of the meat is considered a special delicacy in selected Japanese restaurants. To enjoy this, the toxic body parts such as liver, intestines, and roe are removed. Depending on the species of the fish, the skin, which also contains the deadly tetrodotoxin, must be removed through a special preparation technique. A special license is required for the preparation of the deadly fish, as well as for its capture and trade.

The Takifugu rubripes species, on the other hand, is only bred in captivity to avoid the risk of poison. The Takifugu rubripes is fundamentally non-toxic and only becomes poisonous through the consumption of TTX-containing organisms. During breeding, they are fed with a special TTX-free diet. Therefore, this Fugu species is free of toxins, and there is no risk of death from poisoning when consuming this type.

Which restaurants offer the dangerous specialty?

Cutting salmon with a knife

In Japan, this type of fish is served in restaurants that specialize in the preparation of this expensive delicacy. Such establishments are usually recognized by a puffed-up pufferfish at the entrance. The dried Fugu indicates that the restaurant holds the necessary license. Consuming the poisonous animal can potentially be fatal, as the small fish contains enough Tetrodotoxin poison to kill an adult human.

For this reason, the poisonous pufferfish is considered a spectacular delicacy that is known beyond Japan's borders. In most other countries, the preparation of the animal is strictly prohibited. In Japanese restaurants, only specially trained chefs are allowed to fillet the Fugu. The deadly neurotoxin is primarily contained in the animal's internal organs. A Japanese chef must dismantle the fish with the utmost precision and carefully fillet it. This is the only way to ensure the safety of the guest.

What does the boxfish taste like?


A Japanese proverb states "Fugu wa kuitashi, inch wa oshishi" (in English: I want to eat fugu, but I value my life). With this proverb, the Japanese succinctly express the fascination for consuming pufferfish. After all, theoretically, it could be one's last meal. Fortunately, reported deaths from Tetrodotoxin have become minimal, totaling no more than 11 deaths in the last decade. These fatalities are also associated with private households where individuals prepared the pufferfish themselves.

How is a fugu meal served?

Fish served with spring onions

Fugu is often served raw as Sashimi as part of a complete Japanese menu in a Fugu restaurant. The trained chef slices the animal into very thin slices, which are almost transparent. When eating, five to ten very thin slices are picked up with chopsticks and dipped in a little soy sauce. On the other hand, Fugu can also be prepared in the style of Karaage, which is a Japanese frying technique. Another option is to enjoy Fugu in a Nabe, which is a soup.

Learn more about the Japanese sushi specialty "Sashimi":

Make your own sushi read in Japan-Magazine »

How to become a fugu chef

Fugu cook in kitchen

The training to become a Fugu chef is one of the toughest qualifications in the culinary industry. This is crucial because even a minimal dose of Tetrodotoxin can be lethal. Chefs are subject to strict regulations and laws. Fugu can only be served in restaurants with the appropriate license. This also explains the luxurious price for a Fugu Sashimi menu. Depending on the preparation and type of restaurant, it costs between 60 and 150 euros.

Importing the highly toxic animal is prohibited throughout Europe due to its content of Tetrodotoxin. In theory, German chefs can still complete the training to become a Fugu chef. In Tokyo, the training lasts five to seven years, including an internship and final exam.

A typical fugu menu in Japan at a glance

  • The first course consists of Fugu Sashimi, thinly sliced into flower shapes. It is served with soy sauce and possibly some Ponzu.
  • Next, there is often fried Fugu Karaage.
  • The third course is served as a soup or Nabe.
  • A particularly dangerous and prohibited delicacy is raw pieces of the pufferfish's liver. Since the level of Tetrodotoxin varies from fish to fish, it cannot be estimated whether a bite is already lethal.

The effect of tetrodotoxin

The pharmacist and Diplom-Chemist Dr. Bernhard Peter describes in his book the effect of the deadly poison. It is one of the most potent non-protein poisons. With a lethal dose of 0.5 to 1.5 milligrams for an adult human, it is an extremely dangerous and effective poison. The danger is also exceptionally high due to the rapid onset of paralysis, and death occurs with full consciousness.

What is the effect of the neurotoxin tetrodotoxin?

Tetrodotoxin belongs to the most deadly neurotoxins and is mainly found in the liver, intestines, and roe of the animal. Symptoms of poisoning include tingling on the tongue, lips, and arms, as well as a numb feeling in the mouth and coordination disorders. It ends fatally with difficulty breathing and paralysis throughout the body, including the respiratory muscles. Death from pufferfish toxin occurs due to suffocation or circulatory failure within a short time. Other fish, such as the blue-ringed octopus, also contain tetrodotoxin.

How many varieties of pufferfish are there?

There are over 25 genera with 200 species of pufferfish. The most well-known varieties include the Tiger Puffer, Green Puffer, and Rabbitfish. For aquarium keeping, the Parrotfish is recommended, as it measures only eight centimeters and is characterized by a peaceful nature. The smallest species is the Indian Dwarf Puffer, originating from South India, measuring no more than three to four centimeters and preferring a diet of snails.

In the face of danger, the pufferfish inflates into a swollen, round ball. It is this shape that gave it its name. When pufferfish are in danger, they pump water into an extension of their innards. This leads to the well-known erecting of the spines on the hard shell covering their entire body, which is normally closely fitted. Consequently, it becomes nearly impossible for the predator to consume the pufferfish.

Conclusion: Is the thrill worth it?

For those seeking danger and with the necessary budget, it is advisable to consume the fish with the deadly poison only in a traditional manner at designated sushi restaurants in Japan. Chewing on the raw or fried slices releases a small, non-lethal dose of the nerve toxin, creating a tingling sensation in the mouth. Some Japanese and Westerners claim that Fugu can otherwise taste rather bland. By the way, death from Fugu poisoning is also often used as a theme in many well-known books and crime series in Japan.

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