Nama Tamago: The Healthy Japanese Raw Egg
Eggs are a popular ingredient everywhere. There are countless dishes made from eggs. According to statistics, Japan ranks second in the world in terms of egg consumption. However, unlike most countries and regions, the Japanese have developed a unique egg-eating culture, featuring the consumption of “raw” eggs.
Are Raw Eggs Safe?
In most countries and regions, eating raw eggs is considered a bad idea because they may contain salmonella, which causes diarrhea, fever, and dehydration. The only way to avoid salmonella is to cook food thoroughly. It’s no wonder that many travelers hesitate about eating raw eggs in Japan. However, strict controls and high technology guarantee that the Japanese will not get salmonella from eating raw eggs.
In Japan, there is a strict process to avoid the potential of putting salmonella-ridden eggs on store shelves. There are laws to regulate farm environments and poultry feed. After the eggs are collected, they are checked for quality and sorted by size in a “super egg machine,” then cleaned and disinfected to ensure food safety. Only after passing all the steps can the eggs be packed in boxes and sent to markets for sale.
In Japan, eggs have a shelf life of about two weeks, during which they are safe to eat raw. Eggs passed shelf-life can be eaten as long as they are thoroughly cooked. The process ensures that the risk of salmonella from raw eggs barely exists.
Tamago Kake Gohan
It is said that Japanese people began to eat raw eggs in the Meiji period (1868-1912). Ginko Kishida was the first to eat Tamago Kake Gohan, a simple dish of rice and raw eggs. The dish grew in popularity and soon appeared on ordinary Japanese tables. It is considered the cornerstone of Japanese cuisine. The young Japanese like calling this dish by its initials: TKG.
Japanese people often eat TKG for breakfast because it requires few ingredients and is easy to prepare. First, pour the soy sauce over the hot rice and mix well. Then, whisk an egg 2-3 times, pour it over the rice, and gently stir. Then the TKG is done! The combination of eggs and rice is nutritious. Eggs are rich in fat, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B2 and iron, among which the B vitamins are heat-sensitive and may be lost when heated. Therefore, eating eggs raw can ensure you absorb all your daily essential nutrients.
Raw Egg Dishes
Except for TKG, there are also some other traditional Japanese dishes containing raw eggs:
Tsukimi Udon/Tsukimi Soba: Tsukimi udon/Tsukimi soba, also known as moon udon/soba, is a traditional dish for the Mid-Autumn Festival. The round and bright egg yolk in it represents the full moon. The eggs will be heated gradually in the hot stock. The faster you eat them, the less the eggs are cooked, and vice versa. It’s up to you to control how raw the egg is.
Sukiyaki: Sukiyaki is a traditional Japanese stew that consists of meat (usually thinly sliced beef), vegetables, mushrooms, and noodles. It is a winter dish. The ingredients are cooked in a shallow iron pot with a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. Raw eggs are used as a dipping sauce. The cooked food is dipped into a bowl of raw eggs to add a silky texture and distinctive flavor.
Oyakodon: Oyakodon means parent-child rice bowl, as it consists of chicken (parents) and eggs (children). Technically, this is not a dish with raw eggs. The eggs are gently cooked to a soft, runny texture. It’s perfect for those who are not ready for raw eggs. However, In some cases, extra raw egg yolk is placed on top.