Fanatic About Fugu: Here's How To Enjoy This Prized Japanese Delicacy | CoolJapan

While fugu, or pufferfish, is considered a prized delicacy in Japan today, it wasn’t too long ago when it had a bad reputation for being poisonous. In ancient times, before people discovered how to safely prepare the fish, there were many fatalities, leading to a countrywide ban on fugu consumption from 1598 to 1888. These days, fugu is still prohibited from being prepared at home and can only be prepared by highly trained, licensed chefs.

If you get a chance to try fugu, you’ll discover that on its own, fugu has a light — almost subtle — flavour, as well as a distinctive texture that fugu fans often rave about. The texture of food plays an important role in Japanese cuisine, so much so that there are many words in the Japanese language used to describe the texture of food.

Typically consumed in the wintertime, fugu is a very versatile ingredient and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.

Tessa (Fugu Sashimi)

Tessa (Fugu Sashimi)

Tessa is cut so thin that the plate can be seen through the slices. (Photo from: Yamaguchi Prefectural Tourism Federation)

The best way to savour the pure, clean flavours of fugu is to have it sashimi-style. Employing a technique known as usuzukuri, highly skilled chefs use knives with exceptionally thin blades to cut the fugu into thin, translucent slices. Instead of wasabi, which usually accompanies sashimi dishes, fugu sashimi is served with a side of soy sauce, grated daikon, sliced scallions and vinegar.

Tetchiri (Fugu Chiri nabe)

Tetchiri (Fugu Chiri nabe)

Fugu hot pot is called tetchiri, also known as fugu chili. (Photo from: cheetah via Photo AC)

What can be more comforting on a chilly winter’s day than a pot of soup chock full of nourishing ingredients? Also known as tetchiri, fugu hotpot involves cooking the fish with the bones still intact in a kombu broth to increase the flavour of the soup. Once the fish is cooked till it’s tender, add the vegetables of your choice. To round off your meal, add some cooked rice to the leftover broth in the nabe pot, allowing the flavour of the cooked fugu to permeate the rice and create a flavourful dish of zosui (Japanese rice soup).


While it may seem a shame to deep-fry such a prized ingredient, fugu karaage is simply too delicious to resist. Made with skinned and sliced fugu — along with some of the fish’s organs, which become creamy when fried — this dish is the perfect mix of crunchy, juicy and buttery. Add a squeeze of lemon or a pinch of salt for that extra burst of flavour.


Sumibiyaki refers to the process of cooking meat over a charcoal grill. The fugu may be grilled in individual pieces or seared as an entire fillet before being cut into thin slices and enjoyed with a ponzu sauce. Cooking the fish this way lends it a smoky flavour that adds to its appeal. The milt is especially tasty when grilled and is a particularly sought-after delicacy in Japan.


Apart from eating fugu, you can also enjoy it in a beverage, more specifically with sake. Known as hirezake (“fin sake”), this involves grilling a fugu fin over charcoal before placing it into a cup of warm sake. Place a lid over the cup and allow it to steep for a few minutes, allowing the flavours of the chargrilled fin to seep into the sake. The smokiness of the grilled fin is balanced by the crispness of the sake, creating a unique tipple that is especially comforting in the cold winter months.

(Cover photo from: cheetah via Photo AC)