Fugu, At Your Own Risk

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FOOD: Fugu, At Your Own Risk

Both deadly and delicious, Japanese blowfish (Fugu) is highly poisonous if prepared incorrectly yet is considered a delicacy in Japan. It can only be prepared by chefs who hold a special licence, so if you want to try Fugu without risking your life, make it your mission to get an invitation to one of Fugu-master Masato Sawahara’s members-only restaurants.

Beginning operations out of his Osaka residence in 2010, Sawahara now heads up five exclusive restaurants in Tokyo and Osaka, placing himself at the helm of a 60,000-member network of Fugu connoisseurs known as Osaka Tora Fugu no Kai.

Having trained for several years to master the art of safe Fugu preparation, Sawahara insists there is zero risk in consuming his dishes. Yet despite this he served an 18-month prison sentence in 2016 for acquiescing to diners’ requests for puffer fish liver – illegal due to the potentially high poison content and therefore viewed by many as the forbidden fruit of the underwater realm.

Rather than dissuade diners, the prospect of eating Fugu prepared by a convicted chef has only made Sawahara’s upscale restaurants more popular. And with so many mouth-watering seafood alternatives on offer in Japan, you have to wonder whether it’s the flavour, or dicing with death, that makes Fugu taste so good…

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