Pickled Blow Fish Eggs for Consumption?

Posted on Aug 18, 2012 in Hiroko's Blog

Since olden times we, the Japanese, are aware of the toxin, tetrodotoxin, in blow fish, which is mostly concentrated in the fish’s liver, ovaries and eggs. So, finding the pickled blow fish eggs at the Ohmicho Food Market in Kanazawa City was a big surprise. How many people died before perfecting the art of pickling the blow fish eggs? We do not know, but over three hundred years ago some fishermen could not throw away gorgeous, plump, delicious-looking eggs of blow fish. They pickled it in salt, then, rice bran pickling base, then sake lee pickling base. They have perfected the safe production methods. Today pickled blow fish eggs are the prefecture’s specialty products and is a delicacy to venturous foodies. According to one producer eggs are first pickled with lots of salt for 1 year. During this process large percentage of toxin is removed as the eggs loose their water. The eggs are, then, pickled in rice bran pickling base for 2 years. The pickled eggs go through hot summer months twice, during which fermentation becomes the most active and toxin is further removed during this periods. The egg is then go through a final pickling process in sake lee for half a year. Before sending the products for sale the manufacturers have to submit their finished products to the Preventive Medicine Committee of Ishikawa Prefecture for safety inspection. The one which I took a photo at the market says it is aged 5 years! What makes toxin disappear from the eggs seems to be still in the research stage.