Last night we visited one of our favourite family run and owned businesses serving natural fugu from Shimonoseki in Kyushu. Shimonoseki is the fugu Capital of the world. The city is so proud of this title that it even has stamped the image of the fugu on its manhole covers. Infamous for being deadly poisonous if prepared incorrectly, this fish holds a special and unique spot on the menu of traditional Japanese cuisine, and by the way, not all livers are toxic.

I have been eating fugu in Tokyo for years, at a small counter with a few tables. The chef works with her niece, and the fugu is fresh and wild. Fugu still scares most foreigners who are afraid of getting poisoned to death. It is true that fugu’s toxins kill, no way to save yourself, but unlikely to eat a fish that is poisoned, unless you eat the liver.

Most importantly, they have taken the poison out of fugu’s liver, considered both its most delicious and potentially most lethal part, one whose consumption has left countless Japanese dead over the centuries. One of the most famous stories was when a National Treasure living artist ate the liver after insisting the chef prepare it for his table. The actor’s guests refused to eat it, so he ate three portions of liver, he then hunched over and said, “I have eaten the death number”, number four is a curse, and he died on the spot.

Now imagine, an entire meal circles around one fish, (no liver) and there are few other foods that have the range in the texture and taste that fugu has. You have crunchy, chewy, milky, cold, warm and hot. The flesh sashimi, skin, skeletal bones, cool jelly, warm soup and the ultimate, “shirako”, the testis of the fish. My wife cringes when they serve shirako, not her favourite.

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