Shirako a.k.a. “Testis”

There are a certain number of foods in Japan that are more “neutral tasting” and texture plays a more important role. This phenomenon is something that is uncommon in the west, given that taste is more to the point, e.g. instant gratification.

Like it or not, the golden arches of McDonalds are one of the most easily recognized icons of the modern world. The culture they represent is one of instant gratification and saved time, of ready-made food that can be bought cheaply and eaten immediately.

In terms of Japanese foods, Fugu is considered an important delicacy in Japan. Many Japanese will never try it, only read about it, or have no interest in it at all.

Many foreigners are terrified of blow-fish, they cringe at the idea of eating any fish that could kill you while you quietly enjoy it. I am asked from time to time, why I eat fugu. The answer is, I am still here after 35 years and it isn’t dangerous, unless you risk tasting the liver, which is forbidden.

But if you are afraid to eat fugu’s white meat, the male Fugu at certain times contains a sac used as food. Shriako, which are fugu’s testis, this may sound imposing for those who have never tried it, or just by the sound of it, you get turned off.  But shirako is excellent, it has no taste that would put you off, and if you are a guest in the fugu season, there is a chance you’ll be offered to try it.

Fugu spawning occurs five times per year, following each full or new moon, with each spawning period lasting about 5 days. So basically from January to middle of March at the latest in 2014. The Fugu males travel in groups of 10-20 chasing females to nozzle and bite them, a kind of foreplay. They spawn according to the Moon phase and tides. After sunset, the puffers swim vigorously onto the beach, tremble and flop around in order to release their sperm and the eggs are fertilized. The beach waters get milky white and four days later they hatch releasing a round-bodied larvae, and after three months the larvae transforms into a small fish.

Don’t be afraid, shirako it is a delicacy worth trying, just be careful as it is deceptively hot once cooked. A twist of daidai and you get a good grip with your hashi, and enjoy it.

Below is the large-sized fugu sac in a raw uncooked state and the other photo is the shirako cooked. If you wonder why the sizes vary, it is because the large testis is cut into smaller pieces in order to shared.