I had a complete kaiseki style – full course traditional Fugu set dinner and am still very much alive. That is typically how half of the people feel when faced with the opportunity to try one of the most poisonous species of fish, the pufferfish. The other half just thinks that the idea of getting poisoned, no matter how remote the chance, is crazy.
When I told the GrateNews team that I was going for a Fugu feast, I got exactly the same two reactions; those that think I am crazy and those that want to tag along.
First, a little information about Fugu
A delicacy in Japan, Fugu are believed to be the second most poisonous vertebrates in the world, after the golden poison frog. Internal organs of the fish, such as liver, ovaries and eyes contain lethal amounts of the poison called tetrodotoxin that paralyzes the muscles of victims. The victims stay conscious the entire time until they eventually die from asphyxiation. Why am I eating Fugu again?
Why do people still eat it?
Given its notorious reputation, you may wonder why people still risk their life eating this fish. The pufferfish is high in protein and low in fat. It has high nutritional value and contains taurine and inosinic acid that promotes metabolism. If not for the high price, it is a really healthy fish. The skin, after the spikes are removed by a technique called kawa-biki by trained Fugu chefs, is known to contain high amounts of collagen. So ladies, remember to eat the skin too for beautiful skin.
Having tasted Fugu prepared in a variety of styles, I personally feel that Fugu sashimi or Tessa is the best way to appreciate the fish. The Fugu meat is clean tasting, slightly chewy with a subtle sweetness.
Where you can eat in Singapore?
If you want to try this delicacy, there is no need to jump on a plane to Japan just for that, although we won’t stop you. If you are planning a visit, be sure check out some of the charming neighbourhoods we recommended in our Tokyo feature.
FUKU, the first restaurant in Asia outside of Japan to serve the exquisite Japanese delicacy all year-round is now opened in Singapore. Located along Mohamed Sultan road, the 65-seater restaurant is the first to serve the famed fish in kaiseki style – full course traditional set menus to diners.
There are more than 100 species of Fugu but only 20 of those can be consumed. FUKU serves the most prestigious of the lot, the Tora Fugu (or Tiger Puffer Fish) both wild and farmed. The fish are air-flown twice a week directly from Shimonoseki, a city located in Yamaguchi Prefecture nicknamed the “Fugu Capital” of Japan. According to the restaurant, the best time to have wild Fugu is during Japan’s winter, December to February.
What is in a Fugu set dinner?
FUKU is only opened for dinner and a Fugu set dinner starts from $150 per person for a 6-course (Ebisu) all the way up to $580 per person for a 9-course Wild Fugu set (Shichi-Fuku) which you have to call five days in advance to book. The dinner sets are designed to showcase various preparation styles and parts of the Fugu. Here are some ways the Fugu is served:
Yubiki (Fugu skin)
An appetiser, the Fugu skin is parboiled before serving. It has a crunchy bite and a gelatinous texture that is very similar to chicken cartilage. There isn’t much taste to it so I recommend dipping it in ponzu sauce and topping it with spicy radish and chives.
The Fugu sashimi to me was the highlight of the dinner. Watching FUKU’s Executive Chef Koji-san preparing paper-thin slices of the Fugu fillet and arranging it intricately on a plate is part of the dinner experience you shouldn’t miss, especially for a first-timer.
What’s not to like about deep-fried dish? The Fugu meat and bones is fried till crispy. The savoury batter complements well with the blend taste of the fish.
Using dashi stock as the soup base, the hotpot get its flavour from the thick cuts of Fugu flesh and bones and an assortment of imported vegetables and tofu. A light and clean tasting dish, the Tecchiri provides an appropriate break between back-to-back courses of Fugu meat.
The broth from the hotpot is then used to prepare a porridge dish called Zousui by adding rice and egg. The rice is then allowed to simmer, absorbing the broth flavoured by the Fugu and vegetables. Served with seaweed and chives, the humble porridge is a great way to end the Fugu feast.
If you are more adventurous, I recommend you try the Fugu Milt or Shirako and the Hiresake on the a la carte menu. The milt is the sperm sac of the Fugu. well, I did mention beforehand that this is for the more adventurous eater. Lightly grilled and served with salt at FUKU, the milt is surprisingly meaty, like the taste of cooked tuna fish. The Hiresake is a hot sake served with the Tora Fugu fin. The fin is sun-dried to remove any traces of blood then grilled and steeped in piping hot sake. Great as an apéritif!
Overall, I think FUKU is a great place to go for Fugu fans and people curious about the fish. But be prepared to fork out $400 for a 2-person set dinner.