First of all, let me thank those who have recently started following me and also those who have been reading for a while for a while, I hope you’ve been enjoying these posts. Continuing on from my last segment I’m going to go through some of the different foods that can be had in Tokyo, from the strange and adventurous to the comfort foods that will put you back in touch with the west when you’re really craving it. In the previous Food of Tokyo post we saw Tonkatsu, Sushi from Sushi Dai and a variety of izakaya munchies, today I’m mainly focussing on two of Japans more controversial dishes.
First of all, let’s talk about Japan’s most notorious dish, it even made an appearance in the Simpsons. Chefs have to train for years to prepare it and it is responsible for numerous deaths in Japan each year, although the majority of these deaths can be attributed to inexperienced cooks preparing the dish. if you haven’t guessed already, I’m talking about fugu. Fugu is poison blowfish, and what makes it poisonous is a toxin called tetradotoxin; the lethal dose of tetradotoxin is though to be 1/1000 that of potassium cyanide, the first symptoms are numbing of the lips, soon after the victim will develop numbness of the limbs and difficulty breathing eventually causing complete paralysis and leaving them unable to breath. There is no antidote for tetradotoxin poisoning. The treatment is placing the victim on artificial respiration until they regain their ability to breath on their own, however, the poison is so fast acting, medical help sometimes cannot be reached in time. Despite it’s notoriety, fugu when prepared correctly is perfectly safe to eat, as it is only the liver, ovaries, testicles and skin that contains the toxin. When I came to Japan I had a few things in mind that I needed to try, and one of them was fugu, so one night we went out and got the full shabang.
First of all we had the fugu sashimi, and for those who don’t know already, sashimi is just thinly sliced fish or meat. As you can see here the fugu is translucent, you can see the plate though it. It was served with a wedge of yuzu(a type of citrus fruit tasting similar to lime, native to Japan). The flavour was extremely mild and didn’t really blow me away, it was more the experience of eating something that if prepared incorrectly could kill, it was a bit of a thrill experience I guess.
Next up and not for the faint hearted was grilled fugu gills in a glass of hot sake. You take the fugu gill out of the cup, eat it and chase it with the sake, kind of like a more messed up tequila shot.
Next up was the shredded under skin of the fugu, I believe this part of the skin contains no toxin, it mustn’t have otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this. The meal finished with a big bowl of fugu stew, a big bowl of stock and vegetables arrived along with a plate of fugu chunks which were still moving, I have a video of this somewhere. The fugu once cooked improved with flavour although it still tasted very mild, almost like cod.
There are dedicated restaurants around Tokyo that only serve fugu, I guess that is because of the training required to prepare it. When you walk in you will see a tank full of live fugu, these are what will become you meal. As far as flavour goes, fugu as I’ve previously mentioned is very mild, it isn’t going to blow you away, but I think it’s definitely worth the experience.
Up next, perhaps one of Japans most controversial foods…whale.
Now, whale is a controversial dish yet Japan still continue to hunt them, they claim it’s for scientific research but we all know that is false, I’d probably not eat it again due to me reconsidering the ethics of eating whale, but I’m not going to discuss that here today.
We had the whale three ways, thinly sliced as raw sashimi, as a steak and also deep fried and I’m not going to lie, it tasted really good. It tastes similar to a tuna/beef hybrid any way it was cooked or even raw. Raw it tasted like otoro tuna with a bit more meatiness to it, cooked as a steak it tasted most similar to beef but with a slight taste of the ocean and deep fried it just tasted like deep fried pieces of steak again with a slight taste of tuna.
So you’re in Tokyo, you’ve had enough of raw fish, noodles, rice, whale or whatever and you want some home comforts…look no further than MOS Burger. This is Japan’s take on burgers and in true Japanese fashion these burgers look so perfect you’d think they were made out of plastic, a MOS burger looks like a Krabby Patty and they taste phenomenal.
One thing to note about the Japanese is that they don’t really incorporate dairy into their cooking. It may sound stupid, but after around two weeks in Japan we felt like something was missing from our diet, we found a local pizza place in Kyoto and the next day felt fine, this may have just been a coincidence but I think when you’re traveling it’s good to get some of the food you’re used to having in your diet now and then.
Hope to see you in the next post, you can also follow me on Instagram at yeastus_of_nazareth