This week’s print column breaks down the myths around the poisonous Japanese blowfish known as tora-fugu. The delicacy was arguably made famous by a Simpsons episode in which Homer thinks he has only 24 hours to live after an amateur cook butchers the fish. (If you haven’t watched it, do it now.)
One refrain I heard repeatedly throughout my reporting on tora-fugu was that it’s not for everyone—and not because you’ll almost die like Homer Simpson. (You won’t.) Rather, raw tora-fugu has a very delicate taste that can seem almost flavorless. There’s no “wow” impact.
“It’s the subtle, almost textural umami that kind of stands horizontally in the palette,” says Sushiko owner Daisuke Utagawa, who doesn’t serve fugu but says it’s one of his favorite fish. “It does have a lot of a taste, it’s just that the type of taste that it has is something that we’re not used to detecting.”
Whether you appreciate the taste or not, traditional preparations of tora-fugu are beautifully presented at Sushi Taro. Here are just some of the dishes on the restaurant’s 10-course tasting menu:
Thinly sliced fugu sashimi with ponzu
Grilled fugu fin-infused hot sake
Fried fugu with lemon
Fugu hot pot
Egg drop fugu porridge with Japanese greens and a side of pickled vegetables
Fugu sushi is part of the a la carte menu rather than the tasting menu. Two pieces cost $17.75.
Although Kaz Sushi Bistro‘s fugu dinner ($150 per person) is currently sold out, chef and owner Kaz Okochi let me stop by before one of the meals to see some of his preparations:
Here’s a piece of the gelatinous skin.
Thinly sliced bits of skin with chives and grated daikon with red chili paste
More fugu sashimi
Fugu bone meat before it goes in the hot pot
Photos by Jessica Sidman