Fugu (foo-goo) is a dish made from the Puffer fish (blowfish) or Porcupine fish that has achieved an almost mythological status in western cuisine. It has become synonymous with risk taking, a culinary Russian roulette, due to that, if incorrectly prepared, a diner risks death from even a single bite due to a potent neurotoxin found in the fish. While the meat itself is not innately poisonous, the organs contain lethal amounts of a particular tetrodotoxin which may contaminate the meat if the fish is not prepared by a chef skilled in the art of fugu preparation. Death is not an uncommon result for those who accidentally consume the toxin, to which there is no antidote.
Fugu is a delicacy which only licensed chefs are allowed to prepare in Japan. An approximately three year apprenticeship is required before a chef is allowed to take the examination to ensure they have the proper skills to prepare the dish safely. Approximately 70% of the applicants fail their examination, which is quite complicated; however this ensures that only the most skilled and knowledgeable of applicants become certified for the task. The dish is somewhat expensive, with servings in the range of US$20 to US$50 and a full course meal costing up to US$200. Due to the specialty nature of the dish, a chef is careful to prepare the fish gathering the most meat possible, and a special knife called a fugu hiki is employed for the task. The fish is usually served as sashimi, called fugu sashi, or tessa, and is sliced thinly and placed so that the pattern of the plate is visible through the fish. The organs are sometimes available as fugu no shirako, however they are specially treated to remove the toxins and are not commonly available.
Fugu can be found in many places found as sushi and sashimi, while the fins and skin are also served in a myriad of ways alongside the main dish. Due to the demand, there is now a significant rise in farm-raised puffer fish, which lacks any traces of the tetrodotoxin, and therefore any risk to the consumer. As fugu is a relatively mild tasting dish, without the element of risk, some question why a person would bother spending the tidy sum to order the dish when there is a lot more on the menu that may be more flavorful. That, however, is a choice for the individual.