As many of you know, the Tofugu name is a combination of the Japanese words for tofu (tofu, obvi) and puffer fish (fugu). Tofu + fugu = Tofugu. Tofu itself isn’t very deadly, well at least I don’t think so, but fugu on the other hand can be lethal. Fugu are eaten regularly in Japan but can be poisonous to its consumer if not prepared properly. Fugu poison is hundreds of times more powerful than cyanide. Death has a new face. And that face is a fugu.
But How is Fugu Prepared, Anyway?
This video is great. It does a fantastic job of explaining pretty much all you need to know about fugus and their preparation. So maybe fugus aren’t the real murderers after all. We humans sure kill a lot more of them than they do us, that’s for sure.
And for those of you brave enough to witness the actual preparation of the fugu from start to finish, I’ve included the video below. But be warned! If you are squeamish about things being chopped up while they are still alive and moving, you’d best skip on this one.
See? Told you. Not exactly a pleasant viewing experience. But let’s get back to how devilishly murderous these fugu are, shall we?
Poisonings in the Tens!
Okay, so fugu really aren’t all that dangerous. The Japanese government keeps a record of reported fugu poisonings within the country, and each year since they started keeping track there have been about 20 to 40 reported fugu poisonings annually. Compare this to shark attacks which happen about 100 times a year. And that’s worldwide, not just in Japan. Suddenly fugu doesn’t seem so scary after all now does he?
And while reported poisonings range from about 20 to 40 each year, the fatality rate from these poisonings is actually quite low. The fatality rate in Japan is only 6.8% and the most fatalities ever in one year was a mere six. Some years there aren’t even any fatalities at all.
According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, less than one person a year is killed by sharks each year on average (although seventeen died in 2011 from shark attacks). So I guess fugus come out a little bit ahead in this category as far as murderous intent goes.
But what about the poisonings outside of Japan that come at the hands of phony baloney “sushi chefs” (see above)? Well, unfortunately the survival rate for fugu poisonings outside of Japan isn’t tracked. However, the survival rate outside of Japan is most likely lower as Japanese hospitals are better equipped to treat fugu poisonings as it is much more common over there. Other countries are most likely not as familiar with these types of incidents. So would I recommend you try fugu the next time you’re in Mexico? No, no I would not.
Japan also has strict regulations and training regimens for fugu chefs. This makes fugu eating far safer in Japan than it would be in most other countries. Although some countries such as the United States require that fugu chefs be certified in Japan before they are allowed to prepare fugu dishes for patrons.
More often than not, the fugu poisoning cases in Japan are committed by fisherman or other amateur fugu chefs who attempt to (unwisely) prepare fugu at home. So, when all’s said and done, there is a very, very small chance that you will fall victim to fugu poisoning when sampling the dish at a respected eatery while in Japan.
Fun Fact: Did you know that fugu literally means “river pig”?
So tell me, have any of you been brave enough to try fugu? Think you would if given the chance? Share your story and let us know in the comments!