In the wide world of Japanese cuisine, Shimonoseki, Japan is particularly famous for something particularly controversial:
Blowfish. Pufferfish. Swellfish. Delicacy.
Jimmy. No matter what you call it, there are still…plenty of other words to call it.
River pig (河豚). 鰒/フグ, pronounced fugu. ふく fuku, which means “good fortune” and which serves as a pun on fugu, the official name for the venomous fish.
Hire me to remove the eyes, ovaries, and in particular the liver, and you won’t be around to read my next post. Nor will I. I’ll be in jail. You really need to find the right chef at the right time. Or, cower out and try the poison-free version.
Shimonoseki isn’t shy about its most famous resident. I had never tried fugu before visiting that city, but a visit to one of Japan’s ubiquitous convenience stores, called konbini, changed all of that:
Do Japanese convenience stores keep humans in mind? Fugu, bread stuffed with chocolate and margarine and pocket-sized cans of sake really make you wonder if we are their main source of revenue. Then again, have you ever had the displeasure of breathing in at a 7-11 in the US? Those stores must be one of the many layers of Buddhist hell.
For a short history lesson, immediately following the end of the Meiji Era (~1868-1912), Shimonoseki was the first city in the country to allow legal consumption of fugu. It’s not even the region where most fugu are caught; yet, due to its trend-setting stance on allowing people to eat blowfish, Shimonseki became the venomous fish’s main distribution port.
Anyway, let’s take a brief tour of Shimonoseki.
Japan’s most famous fish/wholesale market is undoubtedly Tsukiji Ichiba (市場/いちば/ichiba = market), located in Tokyo. However, for a much more relaxing yet equally delicious market visit, check out Karato Ichiba in Shimonoseki.
For which marine product are they most famous?
Take a wild guess.
That’s English for fugu, and Japanese for fugu.
Someone went a little overboard here. Fugu (Japanese-style) curry, boiled fugu in a can, raw fugu in a can, even whale curry tags along…who says Japan and China aren’t alike?
Would you try fugu? What if it were a birthday gift?