A miraculous fermented food
The Japanese have an insatiable curiosity about food, and have used unique ideas and ingenuity to create wonderful fermented foods. Among these, "blowfish ovaries pickled in rice bran" is unrivalled in the world as an unusual dish. Blowfish contains the deadly poison tetrodotoxin, but if you taste even a small morsel of it with rice, you will exclaim how delicious it is—it is truly an amazing food. Blowfish is peculiar because of the fatal poison it contains, but the fact that the poison is removed so it can be eaten is quite miraculous.
The deadly poison is removed, and fermentation plays an important part in the process of giving the blowfish a characteristic tastiness. To make "blowfish ovaries pickled in rice-bran paste", first the ovaries have to be pickled in salt for one year. During that time, they dry out, and most of the poison disappears along with the moisture. Because some poison is left, the ovaries are pickled in rice and fermented. It is believed that during the fermentation process the remaining poison is broken down by microorganisms. There are many microorganisms such as lactic acid bacteria, yeast and butyric acid bacteria in rice bran paste, and among these lactic acid bacteria play the largest role; in one gram of rice bran paste there are thought to be as many as 500 million. Tetrodotoxin, one of the worst poisons for humans, is broken down by lactic acid bacteria, which use it as a source of energy to stay alive. Thus, even though the bacteria are too small to be seen by the human eye, they have an amazing power.
Takeo Koizumi, Zymologist
Born in 1943, in Fukushima Prefecture. Studied at Tokyo Agricultural University. Graduated from Tokyo Agricultural University. Doctor of Agriculture. Specializes in the science of brewing and zymology. A self-proclaimed "food adventurer", he travels all over the world. Also holds positions such as President of Japan Tokyo Slow Food Association, and is involved in various activities.