Tell people you’re going to a fugu restaurant and suddenly everyone’s a joker.
“Eat more now,” said a fellow journalist during a tasting we were at the day before my apparently life-threatening meal. “It might be your last meal.”
“Well, if I don’t see you around anymore, it’s been nice knowing you,” teased another. Other friends were genuinely concerned: “Did you not see that news where a whole family got poisoned after eating pufferfish? Isn’t it really dangerous? ”
Thanks, thanks, yes and an unequivocal no. You see, before chefs are allowed to prepare and serve fugu to guests, they have to be specially licensed by the Japanese government, in addition to their usual certification as a Japanese chef. Moreover, all of the pufferfish imported to Singapore would have already had their internal organs (the source of the poison) removed and then cleaned thoroughly. Any unfortunate incidents linked to pufferfish consumption are usually due to tragic mistakes, like people not knowing they’re eating a pufferfish.
So rest easy now, worrywarts, and dig in bravely into new fugu restaurant FUKU’s impressive repertoire of fugu specialities – this is the only restaurant in Singapore where you can get the fish served in this many ways all year round, instead of having to wait till the months between December and February for it to be in season.
And if you think about it, if the Japanese have been eating fugu for centuries (true fact: the lifestyle choice of chowing down on this poisonous fish dates back to the Edo era in Japan) and have only one of the world’s longest life expectancy rates to show for, we could do with learning a thing or two from them. Bonus point: fugu is also high in protein, rich in collagen and low in fat, and has been regarded as a healthier, albeit very much pricier, alternative to fish.
Try: Deep Fried Seasoned Fugu ($40)
Done karage-style, this is the easiest one to stomach if you’re still iffy about eating fugu raw. Anything deep-fried tastes awesome, as does this crisp rendition.
Try: Lightly Boiled Fugu Skin ($25)
This hardly looks impressive, but is our favourite way to appreciate the tender, almost bouncy texture of the lightly boiled flesh.
Try: Thinly Sliced Fugu Sashimi ($70)
Arguably the best way to enjoy the fish, the fugu sashimi presents the fish in its most unadulterated form, to be eaten with Japanese baby leek and ponzu sauce with spicy radish. The sashimi has great bite, and has a delicate, pristine flavour that you’d be hard pressed to find in your run-of-the-mill sashimi.
Try: Fugu Milt ($80)
Yes, milt is fish sperm. Even for the gutsier folks amongst us, the overly creamy texture and slightly fishy aftertaste was too much for us to stomach. We’d chalk it up to mental barriers, but let’s say that this is also an.. acquired taste. Strictly only for the… ballsy sort (Sorry, we couldn’t resist).
Try: Hiresake ($25 per cup)
A Tora Fugu fin is sun-dried, then grilled until slightly charred before steeped in hot sake. This has a slightly raw smell that can be off-putting for some, but a sip of the sake reveals a rich, full-bodied flavour with just a hint of a savoury aftertaste – this warms you right to your toes.
A la carte menu items aside, FUKU also serves four fugu set menus, ranging from $150 (six courses) to $580 (nine courses; five-day advance booking required).
FUKU Fine Fugu Kaiseki Restaurant is located at 14 Mohamed Sultan Road. For more information, call 6235-8216 or visit www.fugu-fuku.com.