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8 More Deadly Dishes Slideshow

8 More Deadly Dishes Slideshow



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Durian

This native Southeast Asian fruit is known for its large size (a single durian can weigh up to 7 pounds), appearance (marked by a green-yellow thorny shell), and perhaps most distinctly by its pungent scent. Due to the creamy, custard-like nature of the flesh (the husk is not edible), durian is often used in ice cream, milkshakes, puddings, and other desserts. The danger with durian comes in the seeds, which cannot be eaten raw because they contain toxic cyclopropene fatty acids. The seeds are found in the flesh of the fruit, which means they either need to be removed completely or cooked prior to eating.

Stonefish

This fish gets its name from its rock-like appearance, and it’s known as one of the most venomous fish in the world. Like the rigid and precise preparation of fugu (Japanese puffer fish), stonefish can be eaten as sashimi (called okoze) if handled correctly by a trained professional. That being said, if mishandled, eating okoze could have deadly consequences.

Tapioca

iStockphoto/ThinkStock

This starch, which is most often used as a thickening agent, is derived from the cassava plant. Due to properties in the roots and leaves of cassava that can trigger cyanide production if processed improperly, tapioca (which comes from the roots) can pose significant health risks.

Grass Peas

iStockphoto/ThinkStock

These legumes are prevalent in Southwest Asia and throughout Africa. Due to their ability to thrive and grow in even the most adverse conditions, grass peas are especially popular in regions that are prone to droughts. On the down side, these crops have been shown to cause neurolathyrism, a disease that causes paralysis.

Grass peas are traditionally prepared in soups and stews, similarly to the way lentils are prepared in Indian and East African cuisines. The legumes are also processed as flour.

Red Scorpion Fish

Wikimedia Commons/Anna Frodesiak

Also known as red rock cod, this predatory fish can be found primarily in the Mediterranean Sea, eastern Atlantic Ocean, and Australia. The fish has a venom-filled dorsal fin that must be carefully removed before cooking, as well as tentacles that they use for stinging. The red scorpion was even the secret ingredient in an episode of the original Japanese Iron Chef series.

Escamoles

Wikimedia Commons/Cvmontuy

This Mexican delicacy is the eggs of the giant black Liometopum ant, which is a highly venomous creature. To harvest the eggs, they must be collected from the roots of agave and maguey plants, which is where Liometopums lay. The taste is said to be both buttery and nutty, while the consistency is reminiscent of cottage cheese. Escamoles are eaten most commonly in tacos.

Inky Cap Mushrooms

These little mushrooms are harmless when eaten on their own or tossed into soups and salads, but when combined with alcohol this fungus can become extremely harmful to humans.

Lutefisk

Wikimedia Commons/Isageum

This Nordic delicacy is traditionally prepared and eaten throughout Norway, Sweden, and some parts of Finland. It has become increasingly more popular across the American Midwest. Lutefisk is made from dried whitefish (which has either been air-dried or salt-dried) and soaked in a diluted lye solution for two days until the fish takes on a gelatinous consistency. Due to the lye-based solution, the fish is considered highly caustic after the soaking period, and is not safe to eat. The lutefisk is finally soaked in cold water for a week, then cooked and served.


Fugu: The fish more poisonous than cyanide

The Japanese delicacy fugu, or blowfish, is so poisonous that the smallest mistake in its preparation could be fatal. But Tokyo's city government is planning to ease restrictions that allow only highly trained and licensed chefs to serve the dish.

Kunio Miura always uses his special knives to prepare fugu - wooden-handled with blades tempered by a swordsmith to a keen edge. Before he starts work in his kitchen they are brought to him by an assistant, carefully stored in a special box.

Miura-san, as he is respectfully known, has been cutting up blowfish for 60 years but still approaches the task with caution. A single mistake could mean death for a customer.

Fugu is an expensive delicacy in Japan and the restaurants that serve it are among the finest in the country. In Miura-san's establishment a meal starts at $120 (£76) a head, but people are willing to pay for the assurance of the fugu chef licence mounted on his wall, yellowed now with age. He is one of a select guild authorised by Tokyo's city government to serve the dish.

When he begins work the process is swift, and mercifully out of sight of the surviving fugu swimming in their tank by the restaurant door.

First he lays the despatched fish, rather square of body with stubby fins, on its stomach and cuts open the head to removes its brain and eyes.

They are carefully placed in a metal tray marked "non-edible". Then he removes the skin, greenish and mottled on the top and sides, white underneath, and starts cutting at the guts.

"This is the most poisonous part," he says pulling out the ovaries. But the liver and intestines are potentially lethal too. "People say it is 200 times more deadly than cyanide."

Twenty-three people have died in Japan after eating fugu since 2000, according to government figures. Most of the victims are anglers who rashly try to prepare their catch at home. A spokesman for the Health and Welfare Ministry struggles to think of a single fatality in a restaurant, though last year a woman was hospitalised after eating a trace of fugu liver in one of Tokyo's top restaurants - not Miura-san's.

Tetrodotoxin poisoning has been described as "rapid and violent", first a numbness around the mouth, then paralysis, finally death. The unfortunate diner remains conscious to the end. There is no antidote.

"This would be enough to kill you," Miura-san says, slicing off a tiny sliver of fugu ovary and holding it up. Then he carefully checks the poisonous organs on the tray, making sure he has accounted for every one, and tips them into a metal drum locked with a padlock. They will be taken to Tokyo's main fish-market and burned, along with the offcuts from other fugu restaurants.

Miura-san's skill is therefore highly prized. Fugu chefs consider themselves the elite of Japan's highly competitive culinary world. He started as an apprentice in a kitchen at the age of 15. Training lasts at least two years but he was not allowed to take the practical test to get a licence until he was 20, the age people become a legal adult in Japan. A third of examinees fail.

So proposals by Tokyo's city government to relax the rules have been met with an outcry from qualified chefs. Coming into effect in October, they would allow restaurants to serve portions of fugu that they have bought ready-prepared off-site.

"We worked hard to get the licence and had to pass the most difficult exam in Tokyo," says Miura-san. "Under the new rules people will be able to sell fugu after just going to a class and listening for a day. We spent lots of time and money. To get this skill you have to practise by cutting more than a hundred fish and that costs hundreds of thousands of yen."

The authorities in Tokyo impose stricter regulations than any other Japanese city. In some, restaurants have already been able to sell pre-prepared fugu for a long time. And even in Tokyo these days, it is available over the internet and in some supermarkets - one reason why officials think the rules need updating.

In terms of cost, it is likely fugu would become available in cheaper restaurants and pubs (izakayas). But going to a proper fugu restaurant to eat good wild-caught fish, prepared on-site, is quite a luxury - because of the cost, if nothing else - and also quite an event. For many, playing the equivalent of Russian roulette at the dinner table is the attraction of the dish.

Some report a strange tingling of the lips from traces of the poison, although Miura-san thinks that is unlikely. He also scoffs at the myth that a chef would be honour-bound to commit ritual suicide with his fish knife if he killed a customer. Loss of his licence, a fine, litigation or perhaps prison would be the penalty.

Miura-san serves fugu stew, and grilled fugu with teriyaki sauce, but today it is fugu-sashimi on the menu. He carefully slices the fish so thinly that when it is arranged like the petals of a chrysanthemum flower on a large dish the pattern beneath shows through.

Raw fugu is rather chewy and tastes mostly of the accompanying soy sauce dip. It is briefly poached in a broth set on a table-top burner - a dish known as shabu-shabu in Japan. The old journalistic cliche when eating unusual foods really does hold true - it tastes rather like chicken.

Fugu lovers, though, would say it has a distinctive taste, and, even more importantly, texture. Japanese has many words to describe texture because it is a very important aspect of the cuisine.

Another part of the fish's appeal is that it is a seasonal dish, eaten in winter, and Japanese diners attach a particular value to this. In the same way unagi, eel, is an important summer dish. But whatever you think of eel, it's not quite fugu - it lacks that extra thrill that comes with the knowledge that by eating it you are dicing with death.


Recipe For Murder CBC Mystery Project

Eight mystery stories a co-production of CBC Radio and ZBS. The stories are rather congenial, like an Agatha Christie BBC mystery, a lot of fascinating and slightly eccentric characters, wonderful dialogue, an occasional body, with a gentle humor throughout.

The hero, Jean-Claude, is a young sous-chef living in Montréal. In the first episode, A Sweet Death, the police arrest his close friend, Georges-Luc (who is from Haiti), charging him with murder. Jean-Claude proceeds to investigate on his own. A sweet death indeed, for this episode deals with the making of chocolates, all sorts, and the descriptions are heavenly.

Each story deals with a different type of food. The writer, Don Druick, is a gourmet cook from Montréal his descriptions of various dishes and their preparation are so vivid, so enticing, there are times it’s almost painful to listen without wanting to run out and stuff yourself.

Each story focuses on a different type of cuisine. A Sweet Death deals with not only chocolates, but all sorts of sweets (and some of those sweeties are deadly). The second story, Buzz Buzz, centers around various delectable insects (and the nasty competition between two teachers at a cooking school). In Fugu, there’s Japanese cuisine in The Ghost of Miz B, it’s Jewish cooking. And there’s also a murder to solve in every story.

Since our own writer, M. Fulton, once worked at a radio station in Montréal, and has a fondness for that city and it’s night life, he suggested we record on location in the sidewalk cafés, restaurants, the Métro, the cobbled streets of Vieux Montréal, wherever the scenes actually take place. The sound is wonderfully rich, especially hearing Montréal in the summer . it’s visually stimulating, the descriptions are enticing, and the smells are exquisite.

Director-Bill Lane, Jean-Claude-Salvatore Migliore, Illustration-Greg Tucker, music-Tim Clark

1 MYSTERY PROJECT:
This week on The Mystery Project, the debut of "Recipe For Murder" by Don Druick. The series follows Jean-Claude Gagnon, a Montreal student chef who is learning that the kitchen can be a very dangerous place. This week, "A Sweet Death." When a close friend of Jean-Claude's is charged with murder, the budding chef dives into the world of Belgian chocolates, where all is not sweet. That's this Saturday evening on the Mystery Project at 6:30 (7:30 AT, 8:00 NT) on CBC Radio One.

2 MYSTERY PROJECT:
This week on The Mystery Project, more of "Recipe for Murder." Student chef Jean-Claude Gagnon delves into the risky world of "edible esoterica," which is a nice way of saying "fried bugs." That's this Saturday evening on the Mystery Project at 6:30 (7:30 AT, 8:00 NT) on CBC Radio One.

3 MYSTERY PROJECT:
This week on The Mystery Project, more of Recipe for Murder, the adventures of student chef Jean-Claude Gagnon. They're shooting a Japanese movie in Montreal, and Jean-Claude gets a job working on the set. But there may be something even more deadly than blowfish floating around. That's Recipe for Murder this Saturday evening on the Mystery Project at 6:30 (7:30 AT, 8:00 NT) on CBC Radio One.

4 MYSTERY PROJECT:
This week on The Mystery Project, more of Recipe For Murder, the adventures of student chef Jean-Claude Gagnon. Digging around for burdock root, J-C finds something he hadn't bargained for, something that puts him on the trail of a killer. That's Recipe for Murder this Saturday evening on the Mystery Project at 6:30 (7:30 AT, 8:00 NT) on CBC Radio One.

5 MYSTERY PROJECT:
This week on The Mystery Project, more of Recipe for Murder, featuring student chef Jean-Claude Gagnon. This week, Jean-Claude follows a restaurant regular into the heart of New England and finds her living a very double life. That's this Saturday evening on the Mystery Project at 6:30 (7:30 AT, 8:00 NT) on CBC Radio One.

6. MYSTERY PROJECT:
Saturday on the Mystery Project, more of Recipe for Murder, featuring student chef Jean-Claude Gagnon. This week, "It Tastes Like Pork": Jean-Claude decides to spend the winter in Fort Edward, New York working at a cafe that's near the famous Saratoga racetrack. Trouble is, jockeys are disappearing at an alarming rate. When Jean-Claude investigates, he finds a whole new culinary horror. That's this Saturday evening on the Mystery Project at 6:30 (7:30 AT, 8:00 NT) on CBC Radio One.

7 MYSTERY PROJECT:
This week on The Mystery Project, more of Recipe For Murder, featuring student chef Jean-Claude Gagnon. This week, "The Cordon Blues." Jean-Claude takes a job at the upscale Chez Laberge. But all is not well behind the lace curtains in this bastion of élite taste, where proving your cordon bleu credentials can be a matter of life and death. That's this Saturday evening on the Mystery Project at 6:30 (7:30 AT, 8:00 NT) on CBC Radio One.

8. MYSTERY PROJECT:
This week on The Mystery Project, more of Recipe for Murder, featuring student chef Jean-Claude Gagnon. This week, "The Food Chain." Jean-Claude and Inspector Fortin have certainly had their differences in the past, but the sudden illness of a mutual friend brings them together pretty quickly. Because someone has to get to the bottom of the wave of food poisoning that's been sweeping Montreal. That's this Saturday evening on the Mystery Project at 6:30 (7:30 AT, 8:00 NT) on CBC Radio One.

Some episodes were recorded at Saratoga Race track, Fort Edwards, New York.


Casu Marzu is a traditional Sardinian cheese that's extra-fermented by live maggots that partially decompose the cheese. Not feeling this one? Neither is the US government. The cheese is banned for sanitary/hygienic reasons.

Pushing aside the dubious ingredients found inside most brands of hot dogs, hot dogs are notorious in many hospitals as one of the top choking hazards in the kitchen. They're the number one cause of choking-related injuries in children under three, according to John Hopkins Medicine. So be sure to chew slowly!


How to Eat Fugu

Raw: Fugu Sashimi, Fugu Sushi

One of the most popular ways to eat fugu is raw in sushi or sashimi. Fugu meat is non-fatty and has a uniquely firm texture. Some people say they can feel a tingling sensation from trace amounts of fugu toxin in the meat. When eaten as sashimi, it’s known as “fugusashi” or “tessa” in the Western Kansai region. Because the raw meat can be chewy, it’s sliced thinly to the point where it becomes transparent and is usually served on an elaborately patterned plate so that the design of the plate shows through the pieces of sashimi. Fugusashi may also be served aburi-style, with the exterior surface of the meat broiled and underneath still raw. The pieces of thinly sliced fugu meat are usually arranged in the shape of a chrysanthemum flower which, somewhat fittingly, is a symbol of death in Japan. The dish may be served with a garnish, such as thin stalks of negi around which the delicate slices of fugu are wrapped before dipping in a sauce of ponzu citrus or su-joyu (soy sauce and vinegar).

Fugusashi may be served together with the skin of the fugu, parboiled and thinly sliced in a dish called “kawasashi”. The milt of the fugu fish may also be eaten raw and is highly prized by many people as the finest part of the fish.

In a Hot Pot: Fugu Nabe (Tecchiri), Fugu Shabu

Fugu nabe, or hot pot, is a dish of fugu meat and skin simmered together with vegetables in a simple dashi broth made with kombu kelp that takes on the delicate flavor of the fugu during cooking. The dish is often called “tecchiri” or “fugu-chiri” for the “chiri, chiri” sound that fugu is believed to make in the broth as it cooks. Fugu-shabu is a similar dish to fugu hot pot, but rather than cooking all of the ingredients together in the nabe pot, each bite of fugu is swished lightly in the broth piece-by-piece over the course of the meal.

Fried or Grilled: Karaage-style, Sumibiyaki-style

In addition to raw and simmered fugu, the fish can be fried or grilled for a number of delicious dishes. Fugu no karaage is a dish of deep-fried fugu meat and bones, along with some of the organs which become creamy when fried. Fugu meat can also be cooked sumibiyaki-style, grilled over a charcoal flame. The milt is especially delicious grilled and is considered a huge delicacy. Fugu can be grilled in pieces and eaten, or the whole fillet can be seared then thinly sliced and flavored with a ponzu sauce.

With Rice: Fugu Zosui/ Ojiya, Fugu Chazuke

At the end of a meal of tecchiri hot pot, it’s common to finish the meal by adding cooked rice and beaten egg to the pot to make a porridge called “zosui” or “ojiya”, which is richly flavored from the fugu-infused broth. Fugu donburi is another rice dish featuring fugu served over steamed rice. The dish gets its name from the donburi bowl in which it is served. Also similar is fugu-chazuke, a dish of grilled fugu served on rice over which steaming hot tea or dashi soup is poured. Small bits of crunchy rice and other condiments are typically added for texture.

Eating Fugu Is Daring but Delicious!

Fugu has tantalized people in Japan for over a millennia, and in modern times tempted people around the world with the thrill of potential danger. Modern fugu preparations are much safer, and there are a number of delicious ways for this infamous fish to be prepared and enjoyed. Fugu lovers say is more than worth the possible risk involved! For real dare-devils, try washing down your fugu dishes with some “hire-zake”, a drink of dried fugu fins steeped in hot sake. The taste is a smoky and savory-tasting beverage, a cross between soup and alcoholic beverage. Check out


21 Dangerous & Deadly Dishes

Believe it or not, apples, the same fruit that's supposed to keep the doctor away might actually send you to the hospital. Turns out, apple seeds contain cyanide, which can cause stomach agitation and vomiting. Okay, so the seed casings are extremely tough -- there's little risk unless they're pulverized, or chewed up. Even then, you'd need to eat a lot for it to be fatal.

But there are other components to common foods that could have painful, even deadly effects. Here are eleven pretty common foods that could kill you, followed by some more exotic deadly dinners.

Cherries
What could hurt you: Like apples, cherries contain a type of hydrogen cyanide called prussic acid.
How much can kill you: Don't go eating a cup of ground pits, or peach and apricot pits for that matter.

Rhubarb
What could hurt you: Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid, which causes kidney stones.
How much can kill you: It'll take 11 pounds of leaves to be fatal, but much less to make you seriously ill.

Nutmeg
What could hurt you: Nutmeg is actually a hallucinogenic.
How much can kill you: Yes, you can trip on it, but it's said that eating just 0.2 oz of nutmeg could lead to convulsions, and 0.3 oz could lead to seizures. Eating one whole will supposedly lead to a type of "nutmeg psychosis", which includes a sense of impending doom.

Potatoes
What could hurt you: Glycoalkaloids, also found in nightshade, can be found in the leaves, stems, and sprouts of potatoes. It can also build up in the potato if it's left too long, especially in the light. Eating glycoalkaloids will lead to cramping, diarrhea, confused headaches, or even coma and death.
How much could kill you: It's said that just 3 to 6 mg per kilogram of body weight could be fatal. Avoid potatoes with a greenish tinge.

Almonds
What could hurt you: There are two variations of almonds, sweet almonds and bitter almonds. The bitter ones supposedly contain relatively large amounts of hydrogen cyanide.
How much could kill you: It's said that even eating just 7 - 10 raw bitter almonds can cause problems for adults, and could be fatal for children.

Unpasteurized Honey
What could hurt you: Because it doesn't go through the pasteurization process in which harmful toxins are killed, unpasteurized honey often contains grayanotoxin. That can lead to dizziness, weakness, excessive sweating, nausea, and vomiting that last for 24 hours.
How much could kill you: Typically just one tablespoon of concentrated grayanotoxin can cause the symptoms above. Consuming multiple tablespoons would be a bad idea.

Tomatoes
What could hurt you: The stems and leaves of tomatoes contain alkali poisons that can cause stomach agitation. Unripe green tomatoes have been said to have the same effect.
How much could kill you: You would need to consume vast quantities for it to be fatal. Not exactly high-risk, but you might avoid eating tomato leaves.

Tuna
What could hurt you: The danger in tuna is the mercury that the fish absorbs. Once in your body, mercury will either pass through your kidneys, or travel to your brain and supposedly drive you insane.
How much could kill you: The FDA recommends children and pregnant women do not consume tuna at all. While it's unlikely that eating a massive amount of tuna in one sitting will kill you, it's a good idea to monitor your weekly intake.

Cassava
What could hurt you: If not prepared correctly, or eaten raw, it turns into hydrogen cyanide.
How much could kill you: There are two variations: bitter and sweet. The sweet variety is 50 times less harmful, packing only 20 mg of cyanide per kg of fresh root. Still, twice is supposedly enough to kill a cow.

Cashews
What could hurt you: Raw cashews you might find in a supermarket are not actually raw, as they've been steamed to remove the urushiol, a chemical also found in poison ivy. This chemical can cause the same effect as poison ivy, or poison oak.
How much could kill you: High levels of urushiol can supposedly prove fatal. People who are allergic to poison ivy are likely to have a fatal allergic reaction to eating actual raw cashews.

Elderberries
What could hurt you: These berries are often used in jams, jellies, and wines. Their leaves, twigs, and seeds contain cyanide-producing glycoside. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and coma are the symptoms to look forward to.
How much could kill you: Suffice it to say, hope your herbal tea was prepared correctly, and that whoever made your jam or wine strained the fruit. Also, never eat them unripe.

So it seems there really can be too much of a good thing. And while none of the foods above may be fatal in reasonable doses, there are plenty of dishes that can be deadly if not prepared properly.


These food combinations could kill you, Myanmar health poster claims

When you were growing up, you probably saw health posters posted in your school cafeteria advising you to eat your vegetables. Maybe a few compared the sugar in soda with the calcium in milk. But if you grew up in Myanmar, it’s likely you were sternly warned every day that certain combinations of foods -rabbit meat and mushrooms, for instance -could kill you if they ended up on the same plate.

The “Food That Shouldn’t Eat Together” poster is tacked all over Myanmar. Mass-produced and widely circulated, the poster details the gruesome and gory suspected effects of consuming certain foods at the same time. For example, the poster claims that if you eat Chinese potatoes and candy, you may vomit if you eat chicken egg and neem leaf, you’ll get a stiff neck if you eat crab and eggplant, they’ll poison you.

Some food combinations could allegedly kill you - milk and lemons, for instance. While that certainly sounds sour, we doubted it’d be deadly.

If you have ventured to eat one or all of these oddball combinations, don’t fret. The poster appears to be based entirely on superstition, not science.

“Many homes have it hanging in the kitchen. They believe it out of fear without [any] proof,” Myanmar food writer Ma Thanegi told Vice.

Another Myanmar resident, Kyaw Soe Htet, told his daring tale: “One time I ordered a chicken and bitter gourd curry for lunch. The storekeeper warned me that these two dishes would bring death. I ate them both. I’m still alive.”

We asked registered dietitian Jennifer Markowitz whether there was even a shred of validity to these food-related dangers. Would eating these combinations result in a stomachache or some discomfort, perhaps?

After reviewing the poster’s examples, she concluded, “It’s unlikely that most of these food combinations are based on scientific evidence.”

However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t value to understanding the poster’s claims. “Food is such a fundamental part of a culture,” she explained to The Daily Meal. “It’s common to pass superstitions and beliefs from one generation to the next and food definitely has its part in this. I’m thinking chicken soup as ‘Jewish penicillin’ and the association of eggs with fertility in the Chinese culture.”

Markowitz did note that there are food combinations that are beneficial to human health - it’s not much of a stretch to assume based on a past experience that some could be harmful, as well.

“Beneficial food combinations are usually beneficial for enhancing nutrient absorption.” Markowitz explained.

Some food pairings, such as beans and rice from South American culture, have stuck around in part because of their healthfulness. Together, rice and beans create a complementary set of amino acids - it’s essential to have both for your body to effectively create proteins. Scientists now know that you can eat them separately at any time of day and your body’s smart enough to pair them later. But it’s still kind of cool that they’ve been prepared together for so long.

Markowitz added that other foods have benefits from pairing, as well. “Black pepper enhances the absorption of turmeric. Eating pre- and probiotics together can optimize gut bacteria, so you might try pairing banana and yogurt,” she explained. “There’s also evidence to show that lemon juice enhances the absorption of antioxidants found in green tea.”

No matter if there’s validity to the poster’s claims or not, you definitely won’t see rabbit meat and mushrooms in a Myanmar school cafeteria. Click here to view some other interesting school lunches served around the world.


Fugu: The fish more poisonous than cyanide

The Japanese delicacy fugu, or blowfish, is so poisonous that the smallest mistake in its preparation could be fatal. But Tokyo's city government is planning to ease restrictions that allow only highly trained and licensed chefs to serve the dish.

Kunio Miura always uses his special knives to prepare fugu - wooden-handled with blades tempered by a swordsmith to a keen edge. Before he starts work in his kitchen they are brought to him by an assistant, carefully stored in a special box.

Miura-san, as he is respectfully known, has been cutting up blowfish for 60 years but still approaches the task with caution. A single mistake could mean death for a customer.

Fugu is an expensive delicacy in Japan and the restaurants that serve it are among the finest in the country. In Miura-san's establishment a meal starts at $120 (£76) a head, but people are willing to pay for the assurance of the fugu chef licence mounted on his wall, yellowed now with age. He is one of a select guild authorised by Tokyo's city government to serve the dish.

When he begins work the process is swift, and mercifully out of sight of the surviving fugu swimming in their tank by the restaurant door.

First he lays the despatched fish, rather square of body with stubby fins, on its stomach and cuts open the head to removes its brain and eyes.

They are carefully placed in a metal tray marked "non-edible". Then he removes the skin, greenish and mottled on the top and sides, white underneath, and starts cutting at the guts.

"This is the most poisonous part," he says pulling out the ovaries. But the liver and intestines are potentially lethal too. "People say it is 200 times more deadly than cyanide."

Twenty-three people have died in Japan after eating fugu since 2000, according to government figures. Most of the victims are anglers who rashly try to prepare their catch at home. A spokesman for the Health and Welfare Ministry struggles to think of a single fatality in a restaurant, though last year a woman was hospitalised after eating a trace of fugu liver in one of Tokyo's top restaurants - not Miura-san's.

Tetrodotoxin poisoning has been described as "rapid and violent", first a numbness around the mouth, then paralysis, finally death. The unfortunate diner remains conscious to the end. There is no antidote.

"This would be enough to kill you," Miura-san says, slicing off a tiny sliver of fugu ovary and holding it up. Then he carefully checks the poisonous organs on the tray, making sure he has accounted for every one, and tips them into a metal drum locked with a padlock. They will be taken to Tokyo's main fish-market and burned, along with the offcuts from other fugu restaurants.

Miura-san's skill is therefore highly prized. Fugu chefs consider themselves the elite of Japan's highly competitive culinary world. He started as an apprentice in a kitchen at the age of 15. Training lasts at least two years but he was not allowed to take the practical test to get a licence until he was 20, the age people become a legal adult in Japan. A third of examinees fail.

So proposals by Tokyo's city government to relax the rules have been met with an outcry from qualified chefs. Coming into effect in October, they would allow restaurants to serve portions of fugu that they have bought ready-prepared off-site.

"We worked hard to get the licence and had to pass the most difficult exam in Tokyo," says Miura-san. "Under the new rules people will be able to sell fugu after just going to a class and listening for a day. We spent lots of time and money. To get this skill you have to practise by cutting more than a hundred fish and that costs hundreds of thousands of yen."

The authorities in Tokyo impose stricter regulations than any other Japanese city. In some, restaurants have already been able to sell pre-prepared fugu for a long time. And even in Tokyo these days, it is available over the internet and in some supermarkets - one reason why officials think the rules need updating.

In terms of cost, it is likely fugu would become available in cheaper restaurants and pubs (izakayas). But going to a proper fugu restaurant to eat good wild-caught fish, prepared on-site, is quite a luxury - because of the cost, if nothing else - and also quite an event. For many, playing the equivalent of Russian roulette at the dinner table is the attraction of the dish.

Some report a strange tingling of the lips from traces of the poison, although Miura-san thinks that is unlikely. He also scoffs at the myth that a chef would be honour-bound to commit ritual suicide with his fish knife if he killed a customer. Loss of his licence, a fine, litigation or perhaps prison would be the penalty.

Miura-san serves fugu stew, and grilled fugu with teriyaki sauce, but today it is fugu-sashimi on the menu. He carefully slices the fish so thinly that when it is arranged like the petals of a chrysanthemum flower on a large dish the pattern beneath shows through.

Raw fugu is rather chewy and tastes mostly of the accompanying soy sauce dip. It is briefly poached in a broth set on a table-top burner - a dish known as shabu-shabu in Japan. The old journalistic cliche when eating unusual foods really does hold true - it tastes rather like chicken.

Fugu lovers, though, would say it has a distinctive taste, and, even more importantly, texture. Japanese has many words to describe texture because it is a very important aspect of the cuisine.

Another part of the fish's appeal is that it is a seasonal dish, eaten in winter, and Japanese diners attach a particular value to this. In the same way unagi, eel, is an important summer dish. But whatever you think of eel, it's not quite fugu - it lacks that extra thrill that comes with the knowledge that by eating it you are dicing with death.


Smart Cooking Devices

News has emerged of how climate change is causing the much-prized and lethally poisonous pufferfish the Fugu, to interbreed with sibling species, creating a hybrid that could put Japanese diners at risk.

The fugu has been prized as a delicacy in Japan for thousands of years, partly because of its unique properties as an ingredient, but also because the fish contains a toxin tetrodotoxin that is more powerful than cyanide and lethal if ingested by humans, which means it’s a risky meal.

The Setouchi region in Japan is home to the only fugu wholesale market in the country where the fish sells for as much as ¥30,000 ($265) a kilo. Local chefs train for between two to three years to learn how to gut the fish properly so that it is safe to eat, a practice known as “migaki”. Only then can they be licensed to prepare the fish. In the past, many people have died of poisoning from the fish but due to stringent regulations that number has depleted to around six per year. Last year, when a Gamagori supermarket sold fugu that had not been detoxified, the town used a missile alarm to warn residents.

The strict control over the capture, sale and preparation of fugu is now being put at risk because warming waters around Japan force the pufferfish northwards in search of cooler water. This causes them to meet sibling species and interbreed, creating a hybrid Fugu. These hybrids can be difficult to distinguish from other fish, so Japan forbids the catch and trade of them. Today, Setouchi fishermen are having to throw more and more of their catch overboard.

The fish is not inherently poisonous, but it feeds on certain shellfish that are, and the fish then stores the poison in its skin, ovaries and particularly its liver. If the poison is ingested, it attacks the nervous system affecting muscle control and the lungs. Death is almost certain 1-24 hours unless the patient can be quickly supported with an artificial breathing apparatus. There is no known antidote to the Fugu poison.

Despite the risks associated with the pufferfish, fugu remains highly prised and Japan can’t seem to get enough of it. It is served in many different ways such as sashimi, deep-fried Fugu kara-age, tetchiri stew or fugu-fin sake. It is especially sought after during the holiday periods. It remains to be seen if the influx of hybrid fugu will affect the demand. It is unlikely however, even when the fish was banned in the 16th century by samurai general Toyotomi Hideyoshi, peasants continued to eat the fish in secret, with many dying of poisoning as a result. Fugu has been eaten in Japan for thousands of years, they are unlikely to start shunning it now.


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