Tessa: Japanese pufferfish savored in a way as pure as can be

Beautiful fugu sashimi

Beautiful fugu sashimi

The fugu, or Japanese pufferfish, is indeed that fish that can poison you. So it’s a delicious dilemma you may face should you find a plate of it in front of you, thinly sliced, with an alluring sheen beckoning you. Of course, there is absolutely no struggle to be had, as fugu is delicious and, professionally prepared in a restaurant, there is virtually zero risk of poisoning.

Most sashimi is plated on its short edge, which makes it so the pieces of fish rise of the plate. With fugu, the slices are so thin — the better to appreciate them — that it is just not possible to create a presentation like that. Instead, the pieces, which may resemble the off-white coloring of a raw scallop, are laid out in a radiating pattern like petals of a flower, with the inner, graceful “leaves” just slightly occluding the outer ones. Done properly, it’s a beautiful work of edible art, and in the case of fugu, it is called “tessa,” which is sashimi by another name.

No one’s going to stop you from trying a piece of the fugu as it is laid out, raw and unadulterated, but with a touch of flavor from the provided accompaniments, the fugu’s flavor will be enhanced and transformed into something even better. Generally available for you to mix-n-match with are chopped green onions, momiji oroshi (slightly spicy grated Japanese radish), and ponzu sauce. The green onions should not be fiery, but rather mild and possibly even remotely sweet. The momiji oroshi will give a little kick, with the chili pepper and daikon radish mix also gaining a little something from the hint of bitterness in the radish. Finally, the ponzu sauce lends a citrusy, soy sauce flavor with a hint of seaweed and a mild richness derived from the dried bonito tuna flakes from which the sauce is made. None of the sauces or condiments should be used too liberally lest you overpower the fish, but do experiment to find what tickles your taste buds best.

Looking to try tessa in Tokyo?
Japan Gourmetpedia recommends using our sister site, Tokyo Dinner Ticket, to find the perfect restaurant.


Tessa at restaurant Fuguichiro in Shinjuku


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