pufferfish delicacy

Japanese Noodle Giant Introduces Dangerous Pufferfish Flavor

Nissin Foods, a major player in Japan’s instant noodle market, has launched a new flavour featuring the notoriously poisonous pufferfish, also known as “fugu.” This luxurious delicacy, typically priced at up to 20,000 yen ($125) in high-end restaurants, is now available in an affordable cup noodle form for just 298 yen ($1.90).

Released on Monday, the new pufferfish-flavored noodles expand Nissin’s extensive product lineup. The essence of the pufferfish is concentrated into a small packet of oil, which is added to the soup base. However, Nissin did not disclose the preparation method for this potentially deadly flavour.

“In recent years, ramen shops specializing in fugu ramen have been popping up, grabbing the hearts of many ramen fans,” Nissin stated on its website. Despite the local popularity, a Nissin spokesperson confirmed to CNN that there are no plans to sell the fugu flavour internationally.

The cup noodles feature dried chicken meatballs, spring onions, and Japanese-style shredded egg in a broth enriched with a dash of yuzu, a citrus fruit common in Japanese cuisine. A CNN journalist who sampled the noodles noted a seafood broth taste with a hint of yuzu, but the mild flavour of fugu was not prominent.

Nissin Foods, founded in 1958 by Momofuku Ando, originally aimed to provide affordable food solutions during post-World War II shortages. Today, the company is an international household name, renowned for its signature cup noodles. Nissin reported a revenue of over 732 billion yen ($4.59 billion) for the year ending in March 2024.

Pufferfish is highly prized in Japanese cuisine, often served as sashimi or in hot pots. However, the fish is extremely dangerous due to the presence of tetrodotoxin in its organs, skin, blood, and bones. This potent poison can cause symptoms ranging from tingling and dizziness to convulsions, respiratory paralysis, and death. Chefs in Japan undergo at least two years of training and must pass a rigorous examination to qualify to prepare fugu.

Incidents involving improperly prepared fugu are not uncommon. In 2018, a supermarket in Gamagori city issued an alert after two individuals consumed potentially dangerous fugu products. Although they did not report health issues, authorities discovered the fish’s poisonous livers had not been removed by a licensed employee.

Fugu’s appeal has grown internationally, but it has also led to fatal accidents. In 2020, three people in the Philippines died after eating pufferfish from a barbecue stand. Similarly, an elderly couple in Malaysia died last year after consuming pufferfish purchased online, leading their daughter to call for stricter regulations.

As adventurous food enthusiasts in Japan try Nissin’s new pufferfish-flavored noodles, the launch serves as a reminder of the delicacy’s dangerous allure and the stringent precautions necessary for its preparation.

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