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Taste of Japan Part III – Killer Fruits and Fish

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Yes darling, a month and 573264 posts later, we are still harping on about Japan.

There is so much to write about this country I wish I didn’t have to work, had three pair of hands, more hardworking … Or just ethically more Chinese than Malaysian. (While the whole world is Made in China, the M government is now offering a 50% discount on student loan to those who failed their studies…)

Anyhow, Japan.

Japan is a fascinating place.

I believe it’s the only place in this entire universe where you can find product of a plant being uncritically worshipped and put on pedestal. Have you seen a row of impeccably sculpted apples all in identical sizes and identical shades of pink? Have you seen grapes as round and smooth as Cleopatra’s pearls? Glossy black watermelon displayed with soft lighting? Or peaches packed individually with customised casing, tissue paper and foam padding?

Well, of course, it’s not particularly hard to grow something out of a plant. All it takes is a seed, soil, water and sunlight, then you let nature work its wonder. But if you were to combine that with some avant-garde technology, cutting-edge techniques and a copious amount of humanely love (duties include but not limited to caressing, petting, communicating and communicating in deeper level), you’d be able to grow a fruit like the Japanese.

One that makes the buyer sell his kidney.

If you think this is just an internet guff, it’s not. These fruits do exist and they are in great demand not only in Japan but also many countries in Asia.

The ones that didn’t turn out to be “perfect” would be used to make jam, wine, skincare or anything you could possibly imagine. While the “perfect” ones get handpicked and delivered to shops in special vans that treated them with optimal temperature, moisture and air. As much as we are told to not judge a book by its cover, this is sadly still the reality. 

As a result, an apple can cost as high as £12 and grapes at £100 a bunch. These fruits will be displayed nicely in shops and within days, they will fly out of the shelves as wedding gifts, house-warming gifts or generally tokens of curry-favouring.

Lest you think I was mad enough to Photoshop the fruits, I didn’t. They all looked unreal.

_DSC8739£83 or RM440 for a box of this.

It’s good to know that the small words in bracket say “Inclusive of tax”. So much of a difference that makes…

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The premium Densuke black watermelon that was selling at £250. 

I wonder what would happen if some lads were feeling a little peckish after a night out and just decided to smash the window?!

Oh, Britain please send your troops.

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These fruits are not the most expensive ones I saw, their prices could go higher. How high, you ask? £8350 for a bunch of grape, in an auction!

Still. 

They are not lethal. After selling one of your kidneys for them, you’d still survive with another.

But Fugu is.

Fugu is lethal, if not prepared properly. 

It’s pufferfish, a kind of freshwater fish. The one that always looks cute in cartoon drawings – small fins, pouty lip, innocent eyes, blows up like a balloon when threatened… and actually more poisonous than cyanide.

It’s a luxurious delicacy in Japan that requires a licensed chef, a special knife and possibly, a well drafted will. The law requires Fugu chefs to sit through practical test in other to be qualified to serve fugu in their restaurants.

As you can guess, the test is not only difficult but also costly. One would have to practise slicing on hundreds of fugu in order to master the skills, and the price of fugu is not exactly training-friendly. More importantly, more than one third of examinees fail the test because the threshold is just so high.

Failing to extract the poisonous parts of fugu will mean death of a customer, it’s not hard to understand why.

You’ll be interested to know that once these poisonous parts (ovaries, liver, and intestines) are removed, they will be packed and locked in a box, before being sent to Tokyo’s main fish-market to be burned.

This process is treated very seriously, you know, like press freedom in certain countries. One creates a mess, so one has to destroy the mess before others can use the mess against one.

Similar logic.

All these slitting and slashing aside, the good thing is now you don’t have to sell another one of your kidneys to have a taste of fugu. Restaurants are now legally allowed to serve portions of fugu that they have bought from licensed chefs.

Instead of having a whole fugu meal, you can now find a shop that sells only a portion of fugu sashimi at much affordable price.

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This one was in Dotonburi, Osaka. The fish was sliced very thinly and arranged like petals of a chrysanthemum flower. The texture was a little chewy, the taste a tad bland and not as overpowering as salmon nor fatty as tuna. I won’t call the sashimi my favourite, but with all this fuss involved, I definitely want a fugu shabu-shabu in my next trip.

Anybody wants my kidney?

With love x

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