Do you know that eating raw eggs is a common practice in Japan? While it’s not common to eat raw eggs in most other countries, the Japanese have eaten them for centuries and there are reasons for that.
You don’t have to eat raw eggs even if you come to Japan, but it wouldn’t hurt to know the reasons for eating them and respect the local culture.
Why the Japanese eat raw eggs
Because they are tasty!
I don’t think I need to explain this, but the biggest reason why the Japanese eat raw eggs is because they are tasty. 😃 It doesn’t matter if they aren’t for you, but the Japanese love raw eggs and they have been eating them for 100 years.
There are many ways of eating raw eggs, and it’s totally fine to eat them in Japan. Many Japanese don’t even know that people outside of Japan don’t eat raw eggs.
When the Japanese didn’t eat beef or pork like they do today, eggs were a good source of protein
Another reason why Japanese people eat raw eggs is because they didn’t eat meat until fairly recently and there were limited sources of protein. Back then, eggs were one of the most accessible means of consuming protein. I think it was only 100 years ago or so when the Japanese began eating beef and pork.
OK, but they didn’t have to eat eggs raw, you say? I know, but the Japanese love raw food in general and here’s the next point.
Serving raw food requires advanced skills. Eating raw food is therefore a luxury and the Japanese like them
Nobody in Japan cares about this history today, but eating raw foods was such a luxury when there were no electricity or freezers centuries ago.
As you can imagine, raw food is only available under limited circumstances where strict quality requirements are met. In order to serve raw food, you have to chill it and keep it fresh. In the modern age, it’s not difficult to deliver raw food because we have all sorts of electronic devices, but think about pre-modern ages when there were no freezers. It required advanced skills to keep raw foods fresh, and such delicacies must have been expensive. As I’m sure expensive foods weren’t readily available to commoners, being able to eat raw foods was such a luxury and the common Japanese craved them.
Even though most Japanese in the present age don’t even know the history, raw foods are still considered delicacies and the Japanese like them.
Why Japanese raw eggs are safe to eat
Eggs are manufactured under strictly controlled environments and they are carefully pasteurized
The biggest reason why you don’t ever want to eat raw eggs is probably because of salmonella infection, correct? Everywhere in the world except Japan, raw eggs are believed to be contaminated by Salmonella and this is why nobody eats eggs without heating.
However, Salmonella can be killed by “pasteurization,” or more simply put, by low-temperature sterilization.
Salmonella bacteria are found on the surface of egg shells (and chicken meat of course, but I’m not going to feature the meat here), but if you wash and sterilize the egg at a low-temperature, you can kill the bacteria without boiling the egg.
I couldn’t find the details about the low-temperature sterilization process (at what degrees and for how long etc.), but that’s what the Japanese manufacturers do to make eggs safe to eat raw. Some eggs have Salmonella inside them, but they will be eliminated during the course of the manufacturing process.
Japan has one of the world’s best standards of quality control technology
How do they manage to kill technically all Salmonella then? The answer lies in the Japanese quality control standards.
In Japanese egg factories, there are around 10 steps of manufacturing process in general. The process includes washing eggs, killing Salmonella and then checking the results of the sterilization under a strictly controlled environment. These steps make eggs safe to eat raw.
Believe it or not, eggs in Japan are said to have no expiration date because they are absolutely clean!
If you are interested in the Japanese egg manufacturing process, refer to this guidelines by the Japanese government. It’s all in Japanese, but it has all the details.
Dishes with raw eggs
Now, here are some photos of dishes with raw eggs that the Japanese posted on Twitter. As I only wanted to show you the pictures, I’m not going to translate them all.
Tamagokake gohan (raw egg on rice)
The most popular way to eat raw eggs is tamagokake gohan. Search for “卵かけご飯” and you will find hundreds of similar photos. I like tamagokake gohan too.
— 山下麻亜子 🔰| 食べチョク (@maako521) May 27, 2021
Ramen with raw egg
Putting a raw egg on ramen is popular too. Usually people put a boiled egg on ramen, but raw eggs are also popular. This is my favorite. You can put raw eggs on soba (buckwheat noodles) or udon too.
— ベガテン (@UhEk2w) May 22, 2021
Sukiyaki is one of the most “questionable” Japanese dishes for foreigners, but it’s very popular among the Japanese. This is one of the many Japanese style hotpot dishes, but you soak cooked meat and vegetables in stirred raw egg when you eat sukiyaki.
— かっきー (@momoclo_kackey) May 22, 2021
What the Japanese say about non-Japanese disgusted by raw eggs
And what do the Japanese say about the non-Japanese who are critical about eating raw eggs? Searching Twitter, I found out that many Japanese didn’t even know that nobody outside of Japan would eat raw eggs. Also, some of them were upset about people who say that eating raw eggs is barbaric. Here are some tweets by the Japanese:
— Lucy (@Lucymomosirou45) June 13, 2020
Quick translation: “On a TV show in which foreigners come to Japan and do many things, a woman from a certain country said ‘how barbaric it is to eat raw eggs’ hearing that the Japanese eat raw eggs, but think about our established hygiene control technologies that enable mass manufacturing of raw eggs. It’s backed up by social credibility and raw eggs are completely safe to eat. Now, what’s so barbaric?”
— くらりす📎×5☆ (@chip_clarice) November 16, 2018
Quick translation: “I’m watching a TV show featuring eggs. I didn’t know people outside of Japan ate no raw eggs! I want to eat tamagokake gohan. I’m so glad that I was born in a country where we can eat raw eggs. Off for breakfast now.”
— アデクサンダー (@Adexthunder1110) May 18, 2021
Quick translation: “I was like ‘what? Foreigners don’t eat raw eggs?’ but then I heard that eggs were safe to eat raw thanks to the Japanese quality control and I was glad I was born in Japan”
— Ink (@Ink_Virtue) February 7, 2015
Quick translation: “OK, I have no objections to people saying ‘only the Japanese eat raw eggs and nobody outside of Japan does,’ but then saying ‘that’s why eating raw eggs is dangerous!’ is leap in logic. I want them to think about why Japanese eggs are safe to eat before saying that.”
20 years ago, people in the West couldn’t believe that they would eat raw fish someday
As you may remember, there was no way non-Japanese could eat raw fish until 20-30 years ago, but the whole world is crazy about sushi and sashimi today!
The same could happen to raw eggs in some future. 20 years later, maybe everyone in the world loves raw eggs and eats “tamagokake-gohan” (raw egg on rice), who knows? I’m not saying that you should eat raw eggs, but nobody knows what will happen in the future.
Again, you don’t have to eat raw eggs even when you are in Japan, but don’t frown on the locals eating raw eggs. You don’t necessarily have to do as Romans (Japanese) do, but a visitor shouldn’t deny the local Roman (Japanese) culture. Eating raw eggs is a part of the Japanese culture and no visitors can deny it.
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