Blowfish Poisoning Suspected As Cause Of Canadian Sisters’ Deaths In Thailand

In a recent tragedy, two Canadian sisters were found dead in their hotel room on the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand. Discovered on June 15 by the Phi Phi Palm Residence Hotel’s maid, Audrey and Noemi Belanger, 20 and 26, are suspected to have died from severe food poisoning, most likely from blowfish or poisonous mushrooms.

“There was a lot of vomit in the room, and both bodies showed similar signs [of trauma],” explained Lieutenant Col Rat Somboon of the Krabi Provincial Police. “They had skin lesions and it seemed that they had bled from the gums. Also, their fingernails and toenails were blue.”

While officials did not find any signs of foul play, they did notice various over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen, which can have serious effects on the stomach. Moreover, blowfish, which is extremely toxic if not prepared correctly, can cause death within an hour and a half of eating. In fact, blowfish poison is about 100 times more lethal than potassium cyanide.

At this time, the bodies are undergoing post-mortem examinations in Bangkok to check for traces of poisonous substances.

[image via Monochrome]

7 hospitalized after eating blowfish testicles

Last night in Tsuruoka, Japan, seven diners ate the wrong part of the blowfish: its balls.

You probably know that fugu (blowfish), like many seafoods, is poisonous if not prepared correctly. According to Japan for the Uninvited, one blowfish has enough tetradotoxin (1200 times deadlier than cyanide) to kill 30 people.

In Japan, chefs must obtain a special license to serve fugu, and the offending restaurant’s chef did not have one. Police official Yoshihito Iwase:

“It’s scary. If you go to a decent-looking restaurant that serves fugu, you would assume a cook has a proper fugu license.”

It is scary. All seven are still in the hospital, and three are in very serious conditions from eating the illicit testicles.

If you happen to be reading this right after the blowfish lunch you just had, be on the lookout for tingling toes and your lips turning blue. I’m serious.

[via Guardian]

The most expensive delicacies in Moscow and where to find them

At some point over the last decade, Moscow magically transformed from a city of terrible restaurants and horrific food to a gourmet capital rivaling Paris and New York for pure culinary opulence and high-end extravagance.

In fact, just over ten years ago, there were only one or two “ethnic” restaurant in the entire city. Today, every food imaginable is served here, including some of the most expensive delicacies in the world.

If you don’t believe it, pop on over to the Moscow Times where Stas Shectman’s Taste of Luxury takes us on a culinary adventure to the city’s top restaurants where near-fabled foodstuffs are carefully doled out to the Muscovite elitny.

Shectman gives us the scoop on where we can order blowfish, truffles, caviar, saffron, bluefin toro, aged balsamic vinegar, Jamon Iberico, and Kobe beef–providing, of course, you have rubles to burn and enough bodyguards to watch the entrance while you chow down. Do me a favor though, and let me know how that $100 bluefish sashimi is at Opium Restaurant. I’ve been dying to know.

Blowfish sold as salmon kills 15, sickens over a hundred

As a frightening aside to my Big in Japan column on the subtle art of eating blowfish, MSNBC reported today that over the last three years, fugu meat that has been passed off as salmon in Thai markets has resulted in 15 deaths and over a hundred cases of food-poisoning.

As a result of a nationwide ban in Thailand on the selling of blowfish meat, some rather unscrupulous fishermen have taken to the practice of dying fugu and passing it off as salmon. The issue was brought to light following a report issued by Dr. Narin Hiransuthikul at Bangkok’s Chulalonkorn University Hospital.

As a warning to anyone travelling in Thailand, it’s probably best to skip on the salmon spring rolls!

** Photo by Flickr user Howdy, I’m H. Michael Karshis **

Big in Japan: The Subtle Art of Eating Blowfish (Part III)

This is the third and final installment in a three-part series on the subtle art of eating blowfish. If you’re new to the feature column ‘Big in Japan,’ be sure to check out Part I and Part II before reading below.

Still hungry for blowfish? Thought you might be.

Much like choosing a good pizza joint or a romantic spot to sip a cocktail, your fugu experience can vary depending on the restaurant. Excellent fugu will have you begging for a second plate. Poor fugu will have you gasping for your last breath.

Truth be told, most fugu-eating takes place at specialty restaurants, which are fairly easy to identify even in the urban jungle that is Japan.

(Case in point – you don’t have to speak Japanese to find this popular spot in Shibuya).

How do you know that a restaurant is serving fresh fugu? Simple.

Blowfish are kept alive in large aquariums prior to serving. If you ask politely, a chef will sometimes let you choose your fish, and then slice it up in front of you with a fugu-hiki (literally fugu-pulling; ふぐ引き), a specially designated knife that is only used for filleting blowfish. Think it’s annoying when someone leaves peanut butter on your butter knife? How about a splash of neurotoxin on your steak knife.

If you really want to sample the full culinary spectrum of fugu, you’re going to have to spend between ¥10,000 and ¥25,000 (US$80 to US$200). The centerpiece of this meal is fugu sashimi, which is usually extremely thinly sliced, and arranged in a decorative pattern on a porcelain plate. Although first-time consumers of fugu are surprised to discover that blowfish is rather tasteless compared to fish such as tuna or salmon, aficionados focus on the delicate texture and the elegant presentation.

Of course, a good fugu chef will dress up the dish with homemade soy sauce as well as a small dab of freshly grated wasabi to cleanse the palete and clear the sinuses. A great fugu chef will dress up the dish with a citrus-accented ponzu dipping sauce as well as a small dab of poison to numb the palette and clear the mind.

Accompaniments to fugu sashimi include a variety of blowfish organs and parts that you probably didn’t think were edible. Blowfish fins can be flash-fried in hot sesame oil, and then served in a carafe of hot sake. Blowfish skin can de-spiked, crisped over a hot flame and then sprinkled over a fresh salad of white radish and cucumber. Blowfish testicles can be eaten like grapes – although it’s something of an acquired taste, the flavor is reminiscent of salty milk. Delicious.

Well, that brings us to the end of the three-part series on the subtle art of eating blowfish. If I haven’t yet been able to get your mouth watering and your stomach growling, stay tuned as I’ve only just begun to unlock the vast treasure trove of Japanese cuisine.

** Special thanks to Flickr user schorschi_san for snapping the shot of the fugu restaurant near my apartment **