On the other side of the Pacific, there is a plethora of different delicacies to surprise a Western eye. There are edible bird’s nest made from bird’s saliva. These treasured nests sell for $2,000 a pound! http://www.flavorandfortune.com/dataaccess/article.php?ID=672. Other prized foods include abalone, sea cucumbers (giant ocean slugs), and the controversial shark fin (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/shark-fin-soup/). A favorite treat of our family is eel, aka unagi. The eel is usually broiled with a mild teriyaki sauce and eaten with all the bones. The bones are soft enough to eat and too plentiful to remove.
While many delicacies may seem peculiar to a foreign tummy, the most intimidating delicacy is the blowfish, or fugu. So why am I scared of the blowfish? It can kill me and I like to survive my meals. Blowfish are poisonous. They contain a lethal toxin in certain organs that is 1,200 times as deadly as cyanide. There is no known antidote and death is swift. Most Japanese do not worry about the poisonous nature of the fish because deaths are extremely rare and the preparation of blowfish is highly regulated. Most deaths occur from fisherman who try to prepare the fish on their own instead of using the licensed chefs, an elite and hard-earned license. I thought I was overly concerned about the risk until I read about an incident of poisoning at prestigious restaurant in Tokyo.
The important takeaway is that she requested to eat one of the poisonous organs, which is taken out of the fish before eating. It still rattles my nerves. After ten years as avoiding it, I decided it bite the bullet, rather literally it seems.
The first course was sashimi, thinly sliced raw blowfish. I looked over at my kids, kissed them just in case, and then dug in. The first bite surprised me. The taste was very mild and the texture was firm and chewy. The sashimi tasted extremely fresh. Well, it was fresh indeed! The next course was a plate of fish parts that were still moving! The quivering parts were boiled at the table with various vegetables. Meanwhile, we dined on fried fins. Once we finished the blowfish courses, raw, fried and boiled, the server brought warm sake with roasted blowfish fin. It was deliciously aromatic and a highlight of the meal.
in the end, I lived to tell about it. All in all a great meal and a memorable experience. The fear is conquered and the mystery is over. I think I will stick to non-poisonous fish next time.