Japanese Food: What Is Fugu?

Fugu, the Japanese preparation of puffer fish, is a dish that’s both a delicacy and a danger
Japanese Food
Wikimedia Commons

One of Japan’s most celebrated dishes is fugu.

Japanese food is known for its many regional specialties. Monjayaki, a sort of fried batter with various ingredients that’s eaten like a savory pancake, comes from the Kanto and Chubu region. Uni, the edible parts of the sea urchin, is considered best in Hokkaido. One of the most famous types of Japanese food is fugu, or puffer fish. Fugu is served in restaurants across the country, but the fish itself hails from Shimonoseki, in the Chogoku region of Japan. Shimonoseki is known as Japan’s puffer fish capital and is the largest harvester of this fish.

 Fugu is very dangerous type of Japanese food as it can be potentially deadly if not prepared correctly. Fugu is ripe with a very strong neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin, which is one of the world’s most powerful toxins and is 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. Tetrodotoxin shuts down electrical signaling in nerves  While conscious, the victim undergoes muscle paralysis and is unable to breathe, resulting in asphyxiation. The most poisonous parts of fugu are the liver, the roe, or the eggs, the ovaries, and the intestines.

In order to sell fugu on the menu, Japanese restaurants must adhere to very strict rules and guidelines concerning its preparation. In fact, chefs must undergo between two to three years of intense training to be allowed to prepare fugu in a restaurant.

Fugu can be prepared in a variety of ways, but trained chefs must first remove the liver, roe, ovaries, and intestines. Fugu is commonly served as sashimi, though it can also be deep-fried, baked, or served in a salad.


Fugu can be found in restaurants across Japan as well as in the States.