The average Japanese person eats around 19.1 Kg of eggs per year, according to the Earth policy institute, placing it in the top 2 worldwide! The thought of eating raw eggs may make some feel queasy, but that's the way most Japanese people like their eggs. The slippery, tender texture of raw eggs is often sited as the reason why. Today, eating raw eggs is even considered as a unique Japanese tradition and many in Japan find it rather amusing that others do not do so. There are several Japanese dishes that include raw eggs, and boy are they delicious.
First of all, lets address a question that often pops up when eating raw foods- is it safe? As someone who lives in Singapore, where under cooked (but not really raw) eggs are eaten regularly, to be honest, I initially did not realise that they could be unsafe to consume in some places. Nevertheless, the biggest health concern is regarding possible Salmonella infection.
In Japan, eggs that are sold such as supermarket have already been disinfected and sterilized. Dirt found on the egg surface is been cleaned at the GP center (Grading & Packing), and best before dates are used to indicate freshness, not expiry. This means that eggs consumed before the dates labeled are extremely fresh!
For anyone still concerned, here's a cute interview with the Japan Poultry Farmer's Association, that should clear your doubts.
Tamago kake gohan
Also known simply as Tamago gohan, this is an extremely poplar breakfast dish consisting of cooked rice topped or mixed with raw egg and soy sauce. Depending on preference, the egg may be properly whipped with soy sauce before adding rice, or the egg may be directly cracked on the rice, with soy sauce poured on top.
This recipe takes literally a minute to make; two if you count the heating of the previous night's leftover rice in the microwave. It's the go to breakfast for the busy Japanese lifestyle, and is so well loved it's considered a comfort food. There are now restaurants in Japan that serve this raw egg dish. There is even an annual Tamago Kake Gohan symposium held in the Shimane prefecture!
Sukiyaki is a staple one pot dish that is both commonly served in Japanese restaurants and cooked in homes because of its simplicity. It consists of meat (usually thinly sliced beef), a few vegetables, mushrooms and noodles (usually udon or shiraitaki), all cooked in one pot. It is generally considered a winter dish.
The ingredients are first slowly simmered in a shallow iron pot, in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. They are then dipped in a bowl of raw, beaten eggs and eaten, to give the ingredients a silky texture and distinct taste. Because beef is involved, you can find extremely famous (and pricey) restaurants serving this dish with wagyu.
This is definitely the most exclusively Japanese dish on this list, with both main ingredients used being generally difficult for foreigners to swallow (literally). Natto is already famed for being one of those food items that only locals seem to like (this is not entirely true, by the way), as it is more of an acquired taste. Some people seem to swear by it though.
Add raw egg to the mix and top it off with rice and you have another popular breakfast dish foreigners can't seem to wrap their heads around. Since Natto is basically fermented soybeans, it is very nutritious, perfect for a bite in the morning. This is something you should definitely try during your trip, at least for the experience of it.
Tsukimi Udon is a fantastic and well suited name for this autumn dish. During this season, Japan celebrates the Mid Autumn Festival, known as Tsukimi or literally, Moon viewing. In this dish, the bright egg yolk represents the full moon, which is why the egg is added raw to the soup.
Overtime, the egg does get lightly poached by the hot dashi, mirin and soy sauce broth. The faster you eat it, the less the egg gets poached, and vice versa. This allows you to control how raw the egg is when you consume it. You can also leave the yoke for last. It's just generally a really delicious dish, that many people look forward to when autumn begins.
Anywhere where you can find udon on the menu, you can find a soba equivalent of it. Like Tsukimi Udon, Tsukimi soba is also a hot noodle dish that is topped off with raw egg resembling the full moon, the difference of course, being with the type of noodle used.
Soba are much thinner wheat noodles eaten with a dashi broth. My friends and I enjoy eating the rest of the ingredients first, before eating the entire runny yoke in one mouthful. Some others prefer the break the yoke immediately, allowing the silky yoke to permeate the broth, resulting in a much richer soup.
The Japanese are just so great at naming their dishes. Oyakodon literally means parent child rice bowl, as it includes chicken (the parent) cooked in eggs (the child), eaten together with a bowl of rice. The eggs are cooked lightly to give it a soft, runny texture. In some restaurants, an additional raw egg is also placed on top.
This one is a personal favorite of mine and i think is a dish everyone can enjoy as the texture is a bit like a runny omelette, and hence is not too far off from what most are used to. Chicken and eggs are also pretty much a match made in heaven. The dish is pretty easy to prepare, which is why this is a staple in Japanese homes.
When going to other countries, there are always gong to be things that may seem, at first glance, outside your comfort zone. Keeping an open mind is a life skill that can help you overcome your initial fears and try new things, which may ultimately become things you enjoy. Sure, you may or may not like the idea of eating raw eggs, but trying these dishes could help to broaden your understanding of Japanese culture and cuisine, especially since it's pretty safe to do so in Japan!
Any time I bring up raw egg consumption to people in my area, they give me the same look of bewilderment. It's something I definitely want to try though. I'm sure this article will come in handy when I visit Japan. I'll probably be sharing that video with a few people as well. ;P