Why Do Koreans Eat a Poisonous Blowfish in Winter?

Blowfish (or pufferfish; 복어) is Koreans’ winter delicacy.

With its chewy texture and clean taste, Koreans make many different dishes with blowfish. A warm soup made with blowfish is especially famous in winter.

Why is it a winter delicacy?

  • In winter (late November to late February), blowfish’s toxicity weakens, whereas its taste strengthens as it fills up with flesh.
  • It’s high in protein and low in calories.
  • When the weather gets cold and needs some alcohol to warm up your body, it’s a perfect food for hangovers.

Some types of blowfish dishes

Blowfish soup, steamed blowfish, blowfish sashimi, fried blowfish

Blowfish (or pufferfish) 복어 is a fish that inflates to protect itself from predators. Some species contain sharp spines and toxins. Its organs, such as a the gills, liver, stomach, and intestine, contain tetrodotoxin, which is highly toxic when eaten. Isn’t it interesting that Koreans love them even it’s toxic?

Isn’t it dangerous?

If someone catches a pufferfish and fillets it for sushi right away, that’s dangerous. The poison will spread to the body in no time. 

That’s why the government strictly controls its license system.

Only those who obtained a “blowfish cooking license” can cook and sell blowfish. It’s known to be one of the toughest tests in the food industry. If an unlicensed person gets caught selling blowfish, he/she can be subject to civil and criminal punishment.

Interesting fact: Only Korea and Japan eat blowfish.

When did it all start?

A bone of a panther puffer, a type of blowfish, was found in the remains of the Neolithic Age in Korea. From this evidence, we can infer that Koreans have been eating blowfish for a very long time.

Where you can try blowfish: 신원복집

Located near Hondae Station exit 9, 신원복집 has been selling blowfish dishes since 1983.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Subscribe to the UoH Weekly Snippet

    The essential weekly round-up for news, analysis, and breaking news alerts in Korea.
    Receive news, offers and invites from UoH Our newsletters may include 3rd-party advertising, by subscribing you agree to the Terms and Conditions & Privacy Policy.
    Connecting people from around the world to South Korea. We believe that every country and culture matters.
    Our Products
    UoH ©2023 On Curiosities Co. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Cookie Policy and Accessibility Statement