Every December, puffer fish get even, well, puffier, as they pack on fat to survive the chilly winter. And that's when we snatch them up and eat them.
In Japan, blowfish, puffer fish and globefish are all called fugu, and their meat is a delicacy available only during the winter months. The delicacy comes with a price, though, in more ways than one: Fugu is rare, and therefore expensive, and oh yeah, it could kill you.
Blowfish is generally considered the second-most poisonous vertebrate in the world (after the golden poison frog), and as such, chefs must be certified to slice and dice it. The poison is mostly found in the fish's organs -- especially the liver, eyes and ovaries -- and chefs must be careful to slice around these and not contaminate the knife with poisonous tetrodotoxin.
Chef Manabu Horiuchi (affectionately known as Hori) of Kata Robata is one of only about a dozen chefs in the U.S. certified to filet blowfish. Unfortunately, U.S. law does not allow whole blowfish to be delivered to restaurants, so Hori gets his fish already cleaned from purveyors on the east coast, even though he knows how to clean them himself.
Kata Robata just received some blowfish, and chef Hori will be preparing it for brave diners this week, while supplies last. Here's a sneak peek of what he'll be offering.