Blowfish are one of the most interesting sea creatures on the planet because of the inflatable abilities that make them puffy as a ball. But have you ever asked yourself: “can you eat a blowfish?” The short answer is yes you can eat blowfish.
Despite being one of the most poisonous creatures on the planet, you can still enjoy them as a delicacy in some restaurants if they’re prepared by highly trained chefs. Read on, if you want to find out more about blowfish!
What Is a Blowfish?
A blowfish, also commonly known as pufferfish, puffer, or balloonfish, is a species of marine fish that belongs to the family Tetraodontidae.
The scientific name of the family refers to the four (tetra) large teeth (donti) that are fused into the upper and lower plates of the fish mouth.
Despite the family name, the blowfish does have a much more characteristic behavior that makes them extremely popular.
As the common names suggest, the blowfish has the ability to puff up and expose hidden thin spins that can keep predators at bay. But since there are other groups of fish that share similar features, such as the porcupinefish, blowfish couldn’t claim the exclusive rights for the name!
Blowfish are believed to have developed their iconic inflatability due to their slow and clumsy way of swimming, which makes them highly vulnerable to predators. They have large round eyes that they can move independently from one another.
The puffing up mechanism starts when the fish senses the fear or feel distressed. In that case, the fish quickly ingest a huge amount of water and air bubbles (if it’s in the way) to make themselves several times larger than their normal size.
Blowfish are mainly carnivorous fish that feed on crustaceans and mollusks. They used their 4 large teeth to crush their hard shells before eating them. However, they can also consume various secondary foods, such as worms and red algae when food is scarce.
Blowfish also vary in size according to their variety. For example, the dwarf or pygmy blowfish ranges at about 1 inch in length while the freshwater giant puffer can reach up to 2 feet in length.
The most popular genus of blowfish is known as “Takifugu rubripes”, and is commonly known as “fugu fish”.
A lot of people use the terms “blowfish” and “fugu fish” interchangeably when they describe the fish. However, not all types of blowfish are the fugu fish.
Where Do Blowfish Live?
There are more than 120 species of blowfish around the world. However, the majority of blowfish species live in the tropical and subtropical oceans around the globe.
The ideal environment for blowfish is the relatively warm salt water, which is why they’re commonly found in estuaries, such as California, Florida, Louisiana, and abroad in Mexico, Korea, China, and Japan.
However, there are some specific types, such as dwarf and fahaka puffers, that prefer to live in freshwater environments.
Are Blowfish Poisonous?
As you know there are over 120 species of blowfish worldwide. However, nearly all of them are extremely poisonous.
This includes the fish’s spines, intestines, kidneys, eyes, ovaries, testicles, and above all, the liver.
All these parts are rich in a substance called “tetrodotoxin”, a neurotoxin that is 1,000 times more fatal than cyanide and has no antidote. It causes paralysis of the respiratory muscle, which leads to death.
How to Prepare a Blowfish
As you can see, almost all species of blowfish are poisonous and can instantly kill a healthy adult if prepared inadequately, which is why it takes the chefs years of practice to earn the license that allows them to prepare the blowfish for consumption.
It goes without saying that this is by no means an elaborate guide on how to prepare a blowfish but rather answering an intriguing question out of curiosity.
According to competent chefs that are licensed to prepare fugu, the main objective while preparing the fugu is to get rid of all the parts that are rich in the tetrodotoxin in the fish, which is actually found everywhere but the meat itself.
It’s also essential for the chef to pay huge attention not to contaminate the non-poisonous flesh while preparing the fish. Here’s a brief overview of what skilled chefs do to prepare a meal of fugu:
Step 1: The chefs can use a wide variety of species of blowfish. However, they usually prefer to use the tiger puffer species, also known as “torafugu”, because they have the least amount of toxins in their blood.
Step 2: The Chefs remove the skin of the fish by cutting around the mouth then pull the skin right off. Unlike most other fish, chefs don’t need to descale blowfish because the fish doesn’t have any scales.
Chefs can prepare the outer skin of the fish for eating now that it’s removed. They first need to clean it by holding the skin with one hand and slicing the spines off with the other in a specific move that takes several months to master.
Step 3: Now that the jelly coating the fish is exposed, chefs remove it by washing it off with salt.
Step 4: The eyes are removed from their socket
Step 5: The chefs gut the fish in a very specific manner using special and sharp knives. The knife should cut around the most poisonous parts of the fish and take it out, such as the liver and ovaries.
Keep in mind that even the slightest puncture in these organs will burst them and release the toxins into the flesh, rendering the blowfish inedible.
Step 6: Now that the toxic parts are all carefully removed, the fish is now prepared like a regular fish by cutting the meat up against the bone for sashimi fillets.
How Much is a Blowfish Meal at a Restaurant?
One thing you should know about blowfish is that the world isn’t in short of them. They’re widely available and can be bought from special pet stores online for about $20 to $60, depending on the size of the fish and the rarity of their species.
Despite being relatively cheap, the high risk associated with eating the blowfish makes it a huge delicacy in Japan.
And since the chefs must undergo up to two or three years of intensive training to have a license that allows them to prepare blowfish and sell fugu at their restaurants, it’s easy to assume that a meal of paper-thin slices of blowfish will cost you a lot of money!
In fact, a full-course dinner of fugu in some Japanese restaurants that are licensed to prepare the meal can set you back anywhere between 15,000 and 30,000 yens, which is equivalent to $140 to $280!
Despite the raised price, fugu is still a huge delicacy in Japan, with the country consuming up to 10,000 tons of blowfish every single year!
What Does Blowfish Meat Taste Like?
You might be wondering “if the fish is that toxic and dangerous, why would anyone take the huge risk of eating it in the first place?”.
Some people only do it for the “thrill of it”, claiming that, for them, the fish didn’t taste anything special but was only seasoned by the fact that one of these fish can kill a dozen of adults!
On the flip side, others reported that the fish does taste quite special. According to them, the taste of fugu depends mainly on how you eat them.
In most cases, blowfish is usually eaten in Japanese restaurants raw as sashimi. They cut the non-poisonous flesh in extremely thin slices and present them in the shape of a flower.
In that case, the blowfish feels delicate in the mouth and doesn’t smell “fishy” or have a strong taste like other seafood.
According to some restaurants, the fish has the most umami of all fish, which is the savory flavor associated with monosodium glutamate.
Despite being chewy and resilient as sashimi, blowfish meat has a very mild whitefish flavor with a soft texture once it’s properly cooked.
Does Blowfish Have A Nutritious Value?
The fugu is rich in collagen, which is essential for the skin to stay healthy and young. The blowfish doesn’t have any special elements that make it uniquely nutritious apart from Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D, which are generally abundant in various fish and seafood.
Can Blowfish Be Kept in Aquariums?
Depending on the type and nature of the blowfish, some of them can be kept in aquariums. Dwarf and green spot puffers are small and easy to maintain, which is why some people have them in exotic aquariums.
However, they must be fed hard shells and mollusks to prevent their teeth from growing too long and fusing together.
Blowfish are known for their tendency to jump out of their tanks, especially that they recognize their owners and will approach them waiting for food. For these reasons, you should cover the aquarium top.
There you have it! A complete guide that answers the question “can you eat a blowfish?”. As you can see, blowfish themselves are among the most poisonous fish on the planet with the most potent toxin known to man.
However, its toxin-free flesh is the type of delicacy that people would fly continents to try out, so it’s definitely worth the try. Just make sure that you try it only if it’s prepared by a highly trained chef that holds a fugu-preparation license.