Monday, July 31, 2006

The deadliest fish

Fugu (a.k.a. pufferfish) is a delicacy in Japan. Because of the lethal amounts of the poison tetrodotoxin that most species contain, only specially licensed chefs are allowed to prepare and serve fugu.

But that doesn't stop a lot of unlicensed amateurs from preparing, eating, and dying from fugu. No one's sure exactly how many die each year in Japan from fugu. Estimates range from a few to over a hundred. In 1975, famed kabuki actor Bando Mitsugoro VIII died soon after eating four servings of fugu liver (which is illegal to serve even for licensed chefs).

The few American restaurants that serve fugu serve farmed fugu, which does not contain any toxins. Nontoxic farmed fugu is now available in Japan, but my prediction is that it will never catch on: Eliminating the possibility of death takes all the fun out of it.

"Hey, Ton'. See these guys next to me? They're sleeping."

—Mellow Monk

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