To eat, or not to eat blowfish, that is the question -

There’s a Japanese phrase “Itsuyaruno? Imadesyo!” which roughly translates to “When are you going to do it? Now, right!?”

To eat or not to eat blowfish? For those of you who are unacquainted, eating fugu or blowfish can kill you if it’s not properly prepared. Only certified chefs can deal with this fish prepation.

There are plenty more things I’d like to do before I exit out. Plenty of places I still dream of going to. Realistically speaking, I like to see, amongst many, The Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and New York. I like to go back to Chicago and Texas since I didn’t really have the chance to explore it when I was there years ago. Hopefully by the end of this year I get to go to either Greece or mainland Japan. I hope to one day organize a big charity event. And if we’re talking brainstorms and daydream I’d like to have a dinner with my lifelong celebrity crush, Jessica Alba. I promise myself to get one or two college course done this year.

To eat, or not to eat blowfish? That question’s been “eating me alive” for months. Long I contemplated whether to do it or not. So much more I want to do in my blessed life, and I’m dancing on the razor’s edge for a single dish? It’s like diving into the deepest part of the ocean with only the hands of the supposedly expert stranger as my breathing apparatus. Eating a blowfish is not just a challenge on courage, it really is also an insanity test!

Then again, people do live dangerously. Some do it more adventurously like skydiving, swimming with whale shark or bunjee jumping. Most of us in our daily lives, it starts when we hop on our cars to when we enter a public restroom. Even a ride in the “happiest place on Earth”, Disneyland, is associated with risk that involves trusting others for our safety.

According to my friend Wiki…

Statistics from the Tokyo Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health indicate 20 to 44 incidents of fugu poisoning per year between 1996 and 2006 in Japan (a single incident may involve multiple diners). Each year, these incidents led to between 34 and 64 victims being hospitalized and zero to six deaths, an average fatality rate of 6.8%.

To eat or not to eat blowfish? That is the question. Not only it is deathly, it also raises moral dilemma for others. Fishing grounds for pufferfish are being depleted. However, there are regulations set in place. Most fugu are now harvested in the spring during spawning season and then culturing the fish on aquafarms.

Despite its danger and the ethical dilemma it imposes, brave and curious millions have bet their bottom dollar eating fugu.To be honest, my confidence in seeing the next daylight after eating blowfish was more and more greatly boosted by those I know who lived to tell the tale. They go out to eat blowfish with zero worry, and come back from a restaurant with bellies full and tastebuds satisfied. And I do live vicariously. I, personally, do feel that the fatality of eating fugu is like chancing to pick one country out of all the countries in the world.

I’m not a vegetarian and will never be one. No, I won’t ever eat shark fins because they really are endangered. I’ve eaten dog as a kid in the Philippines, but won’t ever do it again. Yes, the adventurous in me did try eating blowfish. It was satisfying and fulfilling, and it gave me a new lease on life. It is off my list, and off my mind. I won’t do it again as well. As long as I can stomach it, I want to try more exotic food and preparations. One day, I may eat an animal that I fear like a snake. There’s a ruling, stubborn, fat kid in me who basically eat whenever whatever. Remember when you were so young and you dropped a food on the ground and still ate it. That’s what my mindset is whenever I try more feared or unique dishes.

We really are savage indidviduals. Gluttony is our friend especially when we are down and blue. Sometimes it’s not even the flavor that we savor but the idea of eating. They have sailed seas to find spices and trades, which we continue to do. We will never run out of choices. All types of cuisines and gastronomy readily available for us. We explore food. We will never ran out of taste, of food to try out of our own preferences. Meals that were fit for the king are deduced down to lower level which we now eat as long as it’s accessible. And given the time and opportunity, we might eat whatever is in front of us. That’s whether it’s for survival or for guilty pleasure.

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We eat just because. No longer it is just for necessity. It’s a pasttime, a craving, a habit. It’s for entertainment, an indulgence.

I did say upon arrival here in Japan that ‘these are my  moments’. I promised that I’m going to bask in the different experiences in this unique culture. I’ve tasted pig feet here as well as meats of kangaroo, crocodile and camel. I had some culture food and drink like octopus balls, habu sake (snake wine) and mochi (rice balls). I just couldn’t let go of this constant prodding temptation andnagging question of eating blowfish. I’m ready for more risks, opportunities and whatever adventure 2014 brings me.

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82 thoughts on “To eat, or not to eat blowfish, that is the question -

  1. Congratulations for being able to live to tell. :-) So, was the blowfish tasty or was it only the thrill of eating it that makes it very popular?
    Happy new year, Rommel. Here’s to more adventures.

    • I think you ask it best. I was not focusing on the taste. I was more concern on keeping it down, and making it through. :D From what I experience, I would really say that it’s the thrill of eating it that makes it popular despite its danger.

  2. You are a brave soul, my dear! And you are spot on the fact that we eat as a pastime now adays, not really to survive (for most of us), and thus the problems of obesity.

  3. I knew you would! Curious about how it tasted too.Now you need to cross scorpion and guinea pig off your list along with that snake, and perhaps a dog or two :-D

    • Ahihihi … I drank water that night. But I think if I were to wash a blowfish down with something else, I’d be something that’s familiar or more favorable to me.

  4. I love how you shared that inner debate. It made your decision feel like a prize! Glad you enjoyed it and that you are ready for more adventures. Do let me know if you come to Taiwan! :-)

  5. I knew you would do it! I am quite adventurous where food is concerned but don’t know that I could eat blowfish. Here’s to more adventures in 2014! :)

  6. Wow! You are brave. I would never eat something like that, no matter how much it was in my mind. Have you tried chicken sashimi?? My friend eats that all the time in Tokyo, but I don’t think I could ever eat that either! Now you have to come to Seoul, and eat some sannakji!!

    • Chicken sashimi! Eeek. I love, love, love chicken, but raw chicken!? Yikes, that would be a challenge for sure. And that sannakji, another yikes, squirming octopus parts on your plates. Oooh boy! But at the end when it’s accessible to me, I’m so up for it. Thanks so much for the shares.

  7. I really enjoyed your musings about this! It’s funny how something seemingly so simple can be so interesting when you think about it. I wouldn’t eat blowfish, but I have eaten rattlesnake and it wasn’t bad!

    • Thank you. It was nice writing for a bit as I am horrible with story telling. It looks like majority of the comment says they wouldn’t try it neither.

  8. Rommel – wow. You are one courageous man!!!
    I’m happy you survived the personal challenge :) I would have really missed you.
    Also am glad that you won’t eat dog again! I love dogs and horses and the thought of killing them to eat turns my stomach. I tried rabbit once – it was horrible! And I can’t eat baby things like Lamb or Veal. But anyway, I guess fish is a bit different and it’s hard to have a connection with a fish. Though, I do love caviar – go figure.

  9. Awesome post, Rommel. I’m glad you survived for a chance with Jessica Alba. The books by TB Markinson look very interesting, thanks for always bringing the world to my “door”.

  10. I would have asked the same question too. As always, your adventures is an inspiration bro. We need to make 2014 a year of adventure and simply living life the way we dream it to be. No if’s. No hesitations. Just enjoying the moment.

  11. You are a brave soul. I’ve heard of it, but haven’t had the opportunity and I’m not sure I would take the chance. So glad you lived to tell us about it. I’m with you, life is an adventure. I wish you a wonderful 2014. And thanks so much for the shout out. Much appreciated! Have a wonderful year!

    • Finally, someone with a definitive yes. Everybody else seems like they are not up for it, which is understandable. But High Five, TBM. Is your book going to be available in physical copy at least after February?

      • My first book, A Woman Lost, is now available in paperback, but Marionette won’t be available for a few months at least, unfortunately.

  12. Glad you got to write about eating blowfish! :D I wanted to try that when I was in Dotombori—passed a street where almost every restaurant was serving fugu. Only problem was all of them were already closed as it was already late and my flight was the following morning. Definitely including that experience in my next Japan trip! Cheers!

    • Argh bummer! You need to plan it wisely. I would suggest one with clean history. Once you get to the restaurant of your choice, take a look around if someone else is eating it then you’ll know it’s a more safer place to be. Ahihihi :D

  13. excellent write up, Rommel…i’m guessing you eat it raw which puts in on another level of danger. bacteria and fish poison. double whammy. glad it did not blow you up… :) ha-aha!! sorry, could not resist. it ALL sounds sooo exciting, your goals, your dreams – keep going, keep writing and sharing. your attitude and passion to learn and discover life truly inspires. happy 2014!! …octopus ball drink…hmm, intriguing. cheers! :P

    • Thanks, Sun. That’s a lot coming from a writer like you. :D Just to be clear, the octopus balls are food you eat, and are octopus meat in the shape of a ball.

  14. Thanks for stopping by my blog! And my take on the blowfish? I would rephrase the question to “To trust or not trust the chef?” LOL

  15. Awesome! A meal that could kill you? Hmmm… I’m pretty sure I would have tried it myself. Why? Just because.
    In Iceland they have a specialty called Hákarl or kæstur hákarl – which means rotten shark (or fermented shark?).
    Of course I had to try it when we were there! My wife wondered why the hell I wanted to taste something like that and my answer was “just because”. As I expected I nearly vomited when eating it (accompanied by the laughter of my wife). The taste was absolutely horrible! You can even understand from the name of the dish that the first guy that ever ate it, must have been extremely hungry! Perhaps it happened after some volcanic eruption when food was scarce? Who knows… But I just had to try.

    • I’m not going to eat shark. That’s one I’m against actually. Rotten shark? Ew, even more. :D
      Just because … sometimes we really just have to follow what our “guts” tell us. ;)

      • The shark they use for this dish is from one of the largest living species of shark and they utilize the whole animal, so it’s not like that shark fin soup where they cut off the fins and leave the animal to drown.
        I gagged when I ate it. It’s disgusting. It smells like ammonia. Here are some reactions from famous chefs:

        – Chef Anthony Bourdain described hákarl as “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he has ever eaten.[1]

        – Chef Gordon Ramsay challenged journalist James May to sample three “delicacies” (Laotian snake whiskey, bull penis, and hákarl) on The F Word; after eating hákarl, Ramsay spat it out, although May kept his down. May’s only reaction was, “You disappoint me, Ramsay.”[5]

        – On season 2’s Iceland episode of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, Andrew Zimmern described the smell as reminding him of “some of the most horrific things I’ve ever breathed in my life,” but said the taste was not nearly as bad as the smell. Nonetheless, he did note that hákarl was “hardcore food” and “not for beginners”.

        – On the season 5 finale of River Monsters, Jeremy Wade tries a dried piece of hákarl and describes it as “burning the back of his throat” and having a very strong after taste.

        • … and the most interesting part of it all is that people still continue to try it all for adventurous eating. Good for you to have tried it. And thanks for sharing!!!

  16. I’m not at all adventurous with food! I have no gourmet tastes and I’m not a big meat eater. But I do agree that when we travel we should try to enjoy a new culture, which often would include trying foods that wouldn’t ordinarily be our interest. I guess I’d better stay close to home! But good for you!

    • Now that I crossed it off, I feel like trying out some more different delicacies. Eating blowfish definitely set a meter for more food exploration to come. ;)

  17. Another blowfish survivor! I didn’t know I was eating it, till after the fact. When my colleagues told me I spent the rest of the evening almost anticipating death. When I woke up the next day, I realised I would survive :-)

  18. Never mind the food – I can go without, but what does the snake wine taste like? I can easily see myself resisting blowfish, sharks rotten or not, but not the exotic booze???

  19. Pingback: Memory Monday: Sushi, or Giving Chances « The Sophomore Slump

  20. I’ve eaten bull frog, turtle and rabbit, but not dog or goat. Since you’re adventurous how about bull testicles which I’ve read are a great delicacy. Even our newspaper food editor tried it!

    • I’ve seen those bull testicles used in eating challenges on reality TV shows. They also have goat testicles in Okinawa. If I get presented with those, I’d probably say yes on “trying” it, a bite or two. :D

      • I may have tried the goat when I was in Santa Rosa, Laguna at a mission house, except that I heard him screaming when they killed him! Did you see the baby octopus crawling on the guy’s face while he was trying to eat it?! Anyway,when you get to China let me know what exotic delicacies you’ve tried there! ~Liz

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