Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Eating Dangerously

Fugu is the potentially lethal Japanese delicacy also known as puffer fish. Incorrectly preparing this fish can contaminate the meat with a neurotoxin stored in its liver that can kill an adult in less than 24 hours. Because of this, strict regulations exist on who prepares it, where it's sold/served and it's incredibly expensive--all of which keeps this dish off most people's tables.

But if you had two very adventurous Finnish co-workers in town who informed you that one of the only restaurants in the US that serves Fugu is in Seattle and they have reservations to eat it tonight, well, wouldn't you at least want to watch? I did. (Sorry I didn't think to get any pictures though.)

They ordered a multiple-coursed meal of Fugu which arrived in many different forms: sashimi, sushi, steamed, the skin, in sake and deep-fried. I watched intently as they each took their first bites but my cohorts didn't complain of any tingling or numbness. I was much relieved since I was already chowing down on my usual California Roll, Edamame & Agadashi Tofu.

But when the waitress brought the deep-fried pieces to the table and offered some to me, I asked her if it was still dangerous. She replied in broken English that it was fine and I should try. So then I thought, oh it must not be poisonous if it's cooked. So I had two small nibbles. But then my boss, who's been to Japan and eaten Fugu before, said, "No, it has nothing to do if it's cooked or not--it's how it's cut."

I tossed my piece of Fugu back onto the table next to the deep-fried shrimp heads as my coworkers rolled their eyes and kept eating. I sat worrying for several minutes if the tip of my tongue felt ever so slightly tingly or if it was from the scalding hot tea I had just gulped down. Damn, who needs that sort of pressure when eating?

Evidently the Fugu that can be obtained here in the US is highly regulated and is flash-frozen before it gets to restaurants that serve it. To even handle this fish, you have to have years of training and a special license in a state that hasn't deemed the fish illegal. So the chances of us eating tainted meat were very, very slim but still...

Those Japanese--they are crazy and I outta know.

More about Fugu & Shiki the restaurant in Seattle.

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