If you view eating pufferfish as a form of Russian roulette, you may be surprised to learn that the "gun" is never loaded. The pufferfish used in the Japanese cuisine is a special variety (mainly tora fugu) which has negligible amounts of toxins. Moreover, the pufferfish, better known by its Japanese name, fugu, is a delicacy.
The raw meat is sliced paper thin and arranged artistically in rosettes that reveal the pattern of the dish it is presented on. Whether dipped in the piquant soy, chive and bitter orange sauce or eaten as chowder, or with rice porridge, the fugu has a delicious taste. The large number of fugu restaurants in Tokyo attests to the fact that its pearly white meat attracts and makes addicts of many a gourmet.
History of FuguEating fugu developed in Kyushu where the best edible kinds are found in abundance during the winter months. The name fugu comes from fuku (to swell) as in the Japanese proverb about people who internalize their worries: "If you don't speak (about your problems), your stomach swells."
Because of its small fins, the fugu is a very slow-moving, comical-looking fish, which has evolved the peculiar defense mechanism of inhaling water into its stomach so as to turn its appetizing-looking body into a menacing ball twice its normal size. This characteristic led the Japanese to spell fugu with the Chinese characters for "riverpig" (although it is a salt-water fish), and gave it the English names, balloonfish, pufferfish, swellfish, blowfish and globefish.
Served only in wintertime to avoid increased toxic levels generated as a reproductive defense mechanism, fugu cuisine is regulated by Japanese law and can only be served by licensed chefs to ensure that the proper varieties are used. Fugu meat is a cross between crunchy and chewy, said by the Japanese to go "shiko-shiko" in one's mouth when absolutely fresh.