Pufferfish - © 2024 - safaqsy via Fandom com

Height of Hype: Nissin Instant Noodles Intros… Fugu Flavour!

Not real Fugu. Apparently. But that’s a good thing. Because the infamous Asian puffer fish is deadly poisonous if not prepared properly. Still, it seems a cup noodle giant couldn’t resist trading on the Fugu legend…

Fugu Ramen - © 2024 - Nissin

Serious business

Fugo is perhaps the most notorious of Japanese delicacies. It’s definitely the most expensive. That’s largely because the fish contains a deadly neurotoxin. A tiny dose can kill an adult human in half an hour or less. But the dish is also a unique and legendary dish in Japanese cuisine. It’s claimed it’s so good that lots of (well-off) folks are still willing to try it – and chance death.

But that’s not the risk it once was. Now, there’s a national law in place that requires Fugu to be prepared only by licensed practitioners who have under-gone extensive training and safety certification. Nevertheless…

According to the Ministry of Health, even today half of all food poisoning deaths in Japan come from eating blowfish,” Nippon.com reports. “In a typical year, some 50 people suffer fugu poisoning in around 30 incidents, some of which result in fatalities.”

No totally safe option

There is no guaranteed safe option for those who are fancy a taste of fugu. The US National Library of Medicine states: “The toxin is known to cause perioral numbness in consumers of pufferfish sushi, known in Japan as fugu. Due to heat stability, cooking does not destroy the toxin. By blocking sodium channels, the toxin paralyzes humans who consume it, rendering immediate complications if not promptly recognized.

Early adopters

I remember eating Nissin products way back in college, hanging with a bud who was, coincidentally, Student Body Ombudsman for Food Services. Another coincidence: his family owned a string of Asian restaurants in the Maritimes. They were going into grocery stores with select items from their ‘famous’ menu, and he wanted to know what I, a Caucasian, thought of instant noodles.

Thanks to Phil Chan, cup noodles became a huge hit at my alma mater back in the 70s – well before the rest of the western world discovered them!

Thanks to Nissen

Nissin basically invented instant ramen. And like McDonald’s in the Fast Food industry, Nissin has pretty consistently led the way introducing new wrinkles in their niche.

Now they’re walking a controversial line, banking on their fan base to embrace something both fanciful and fearful: new Fugudashijio (‘salty fugu broth’) ramen.

A hazy description…

SoraNews24.com describes Raoh Fugudashijio as, “a seafood and kombu (kelp) soup broth, to which is added a special ‘fugu seasoning oil’ to impart the flavor of roasted blowfish. Also part of the broth is yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit that’s sharper in flavor than an orange but milder than a lemon. The ramen’s included toppings are chicken meatballs, negi (green onion), and kakitama (whipped egg).”

The question is…

Is it real fugu-flavoured oil or some kind of natural or artificial surrogate? Remember, ‘cooking does not destroy the toxin’. And the folks at Nissin aren’t being too forthcoming. That may be an tactic by their marketing brain trust to maximize the impact of the new-product announcement…

My take

It’s not likely that Nissin or anybody else would risk using something as dangerous – or expensive – as real fugu in a mass-produced food product.

Nevertheless, Raoh Fugudashijio is causing a real stir (pun intended) among global instant ramen fans.

Me? I won’t be running out to try it…

~ Maggie J.