The Japanese delicacy fugu, or blowfish, is so poisonous that the smallest mistake in its preparation could be deadly. Fugu is an expensive delicacy in Japan and the restaurants that serve it are among the finest in the country, considered a winter delicacy, typically eaten in December and January. “People say it is 200 times more deadly than cyanide.”
It takes about 11 years to become a full-fledged fugu chef. All cooks in Tokyo that prepare fugu are licensed. They have go through a three year apprenticeship under a master, take intensive courses, pass a written exam and show skill making about a dozen types of fugu dishes.
An apprentice studying to get his fugu license told National Geographic, “There’s a written exam that lasts two hours. They next day they hand you fugu, knife and twin pans.” In 20 minutes test-takers must put all the poisonous parts in one pan and all the edible parts in the other, label the parts with plastic tags (red for toxic, black for edible) and prepare a meal in an artful arrangement. The hardest part of the test is separating out the female ovaries, one of the deadliest parts, which look almost identical to the male’s testicles, which are a delicacy. If you mix them you fail the test. Around 800 to 900 people take the test every year, with about two thirds of those taking it passing.