If you catch a Carolina blowfish and are wondering if you can eat it, the answer is yes. And you can do so without any danger to yourself…most likely. There are a few caveats that come with cleaning and eating Carolina blowfish, and if you know them you’ll be just fine and you get to enjoy a delicious seafood treat.
There are many varieties of blowfish in the world, and most of the world calls them puffers. You may also hear the meat of a blowfish referred to as ‘sea squab’ which is an old commercial fishing tag.
In Japan they are known as fugu, and they are much more dangerous (and celebrated) than our blowfish. The Japanese versions of puffer fish can be deadly poisonous due to high levels of tetrodotoxin in their organs. Many people have died from eating Japanese blowfish.
They are considered a great delicacy in Japan, however, and the country has strict laws concerning harvesting puffer fish and who is qualified to cook them as a chef. Japanese fugu have the singular distinction of being the only food the emperor of Japan is not legally allowed to eat.
Fortunately, unlike some other blowfish species in the world, our Carolina blowfish are mostly northern puffers. Their scientific name is Sphaeroides maculatus. They have generally been found to be non-poisonous, but here is your caveat:
According to McClane’s New Standard Fishing Encyclopedia, back in 1945 there were several reported cases of food poisoning from folks eating blowfish roe in New York City. The Yale University Bingham Oceanographic Laboratory tested the dish and indeed found that the ripe row was toxic.
However, the roe isn’t the part of the fish that folks in the Carolinas love to eat. Yale found the fish to be perfectly safe as food once any roe was discarded.
Carolina seafood lovers and anglers know that the meat along the backbones of our blowfish is some of the most delicious meat you can find anywhere. To clean blowfish, Carolina anglers skin them and pop out the meat along the backbone, which looks like meat from a frog’s leg and taste more like chicken than fish.
So if you catch a mess of blowfish (or blowtoads as some locals call them) on the Carolina coast you might not want to throw them away. Their meat is excellent when cooked correctly.
Here are two Carolina blowfish recipes for you if you encounter a run of these strange but fascinating puffer fish.
Simple Sautéed Blowfish
- blowfish meat, however much you have
- salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a stove top pan. Sprinkle the blowfish with salt and pepper. Sauté the blowfish in the pan for five minutes, flip and cook until golden brown, about five minutes more.
- 20 blowfish strips from 10 blow toads
- ½ cup flour
- ½ cup cornmeal
- 1 egg
- ½ cup milk
- seafood seasoning
- olive oil
Season blowfish with seafood seasoning. Break open egg and mix with milk, stirring until egg is beaten. Combine flour and cornmeal. Heat olive oil in a pan, just covering the bottom. Dip blowfish in milk and eggs then roll in flour and cornmeal. Sauté quickly over medium high heat until blowfish is golden brown, about 8 minutes. Serves 3.
For many more free fish and seafood recipes and articles see my blog A Dash Of Salty