Monday, January 30, 2012

oyster and pufferfish

The kabuki actor Bando Mitsugoro VIII(八代目 坂東 三津五郎) died at age 68 due to poisoning from tiger puffer fish liver on January 16th in 1975. A chef served the liver at his earnest request.

Chefs have to be especially licensed to prepare puffer fish. It is prohibited to serve internal organs of puffer fish at restaurants. However, tiger puffer fish liver was widely known to gourmets including Mitsugoro as a mouth-watering ingredient.

It is required by law to keep toxic parts of puffer fishes under lock and key and to ask specialized waste disposers to deal with the parts. It is prohibited to sell puffer fishes without removing toxic parts of them to ordinary customers.

Puffer fish has been regarded as a delicacy in the old days. Ancient people risked their lives to eat the fish.

五十にて 鰒の味を 知る夜かな   
I-so-ji-ni-te  fu-gu-no-a-ji-wo  shi-ru-yo-ka-na
"At the age of 50, I ate puffer fish for the first time in my life, I never knew how delicious it was," by Kobayashi Issa(小林一茶, 1763-1828)

ふぐ食わぬ奴にはみせな 富士の山 
Fu-gu-ku-wa-nu  ya-tsu-ni-wa-mi-se-na  fu-ji-no-ya-ma
"A person without the courage to eat puffer fish is not qualified to see Mt. Fuji." by Kobayashi Issa

河豚汁や 鯛もあるのに 無分別  
Fu-gu-ji-ru-ya ta-i-mo-a-ru-no-ni mu-fu-n-be-tsu
"Sea breams are safe to eat and delicious. So why some people risk thier lives to eat puffer fishes?"  by Matsuo Basho(松尾芭蕉, 1644-1694)

あら何ともなや きのふは過ぎて ふくと汁 
A-ra-na-n-to-mo-na-ya ki-no-u-wa-su-gi-te fu-ku-to-ji-ru
"I had a pufferfish pot dish yesterday. I was afraid of what would happen, but I'm very much alive. " by Matsuo Basho

Puffer fishes are in season from November to February.
Shimonoseki is famous for its puffer fishes. The first puffer fish auction of the year is held in Shimonoseki on January 4th. They use a unique bidding process. Bidders make a bid by signalling a bid price with fingers to an auctioneer in a tube-shaped cloth like kimono sleeve.
Some of cultured puffer fishes are nonpoisonous.

Oysters are also in season.
Hiroshima Prefecture ranks first in oyster production in Japan, and Miyagi Prefecture ranked second. Miyagi ranked first in seed oyster production. Because of the tsunami, the number of cultured oysters in Miyagi was down about 90% from the previous year. I haven't seen oysters from Miyagi at shops this season.

A oyster grower stewed a few hundred of oysters that he could not ship due to the tsunami. He was eating strongly flavored stewed oysters for two weeks. In spite of food shortage, he searched for missing persons and wiped away the rubble.

Ironically, it is said that oysters grow more rapidly after the tsunami. On January 19th, 160 kilograms of cultured oysters were shipped from Kesennuma in Miyagi. The shipment of the oysters had originally been scheduled for this autumn.

Mulot company, PlanetFinance, business operators related to the oyster farming industry and government agencies in France are currently promoting a joint project "France-Okaeshi Project" to revive Japanese oyster farming. "France-Okaeshi" means "France returning a present".
LOUIS VUITTON is also supporting oyster growers.

The Pacific oyster, Japanese oyster or Miyagi oyster (Crassostrea gigas), was introduced from Japan to France in the 1970s and 1990 because a virus has decimated oysters in France. About 90% of cultured oysters in France are descended from Miyagi's oysters.

However, a herpes virus was first detected in 2008 among breeding Pacific oysters in France and the virus spread.  In March in 2011, 5000 Japanese seed oysters were expected to be introduced on a trial basis to Ifremer(French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea.) The quake and tsunami occurred a few days before the scheduled shipping. The introduction of Japanese seed oysters was shelved.

The joint project provides financial and material support to oyster producers in tsunami-hit areas. However, Japanese way of oyster farming is completely different from French. It was difficult to get materials for Japanese oyster farming in France.

In Japan, a fisheries entrepreneur found ways to cultivate oysters and started large-scale cultivation in 1927. Incidentally, his daughter is a famous journalist who specializes in cooking and was one of the judges on the original Iron Chef television program.

We appreciate that French oyster farmers facing tough times are helping to revive Japanese oyster farming.

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