The only knowledge I have of blowfish is from an episode of the Simpson’s I saw while I was in college (I think my eight year old daughter actually knows more about the fish than I do). What I took away from that episode is that blow fish is poisonous and if not prepared properly, you die. So when my father-in-law asked me if we wanted to go out to a blowfish restaurant, it took me a minute to answer while I recalled this highly accurate information I learned from an American cartoon I saw 20 years ago, and debated my own consequences. It felt like the culinary equivalent of sky diving. Was I ready to be this close to death? And with my children? Well, Homer Simpson lived, so I decided to give it a try.

The restaurant we went to had a fish tank outside full of blowfish, or fugu as it’s called in Japan. From there we sat around a table with a cook top. Our appetizer was raw blowfish skin, followed by very thinly sliced blowfish sashimi (raw). Surprisingly, my children were eating and liking everything, and I was too. The fish had a unique texture, but it didn’t have a strong offensive flavor.

The main dish was big chunks of the fish served raw to be cooked in a broth at our table. This style of cooking is called “nabe.” The fish was so fresh (I’m assuming the fish was from the tank outside) that the meat was still wiggling and quivering even though it was all sliced up. Whoa, talk about a new experience! Even cooked, the fish had a unique texture, but a very mild flavor.

We even ordered and ate the milt from the blowfish. Milt is called “shirako,” which is fish semen. Yes, you read that right. I had a rather traumatizing experience with shirako a few years ago, but decided it was worth a try again. Yes, I ate fish semen, again. Voluntarily! Why not? It’s a delicacy. At least that’s what they tell me.

After we ate the fish, vegetables, and semen, they brought out rice to make a porridge with the remaining broth. The whole dining experience was fantastic and definitely over-shadowed any doubt I may have had about the safety of consuming the dangerous blowfish.

Once we got home, after eating the fish, that’s when I decided to actually look into the risk level. You know, because that makes the most sense. And it turns out the risk is extremely low. Phew! Death by blowfish is extremely rare in Japan. And almost all of the reported incidents that have resulted in food poisoning or death were from people catching it and preparing it at home on their own. There are strict regulations and guidelines for chefs who prepare this fish too. So just as I wouldn’t eat raw fish sushi from a gas station, I wouldn’t eat blowfish if someone said “Do you want some blowfish? Uncle Bob just caught it this morning.”

Also, (according to Wikipedia) there are only approximately 17 restaurants that serve blowfish in the US, most of which are in New York or California. So unless you’re going to Japan or South Korea anytime soon, you have nothing to worry about. But if you want to live on the edge of death, I would definitely recommend you give blowfish a try.

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