Is it safe to eat raw eggs in Japan?
But…what about the salmonella!? You’re probably asking yourself. Well, did you know that salmonella actually comes from bacteria on the shell of the egg? Japan has an extremely strict practice for cleaning eggs, resulting in extremely low cases of salmonella infection. While the odd case of infection does happen, Japanese standards and practices regarding expiration dates and cleaning practices are put in place with the expectation that people will be consuming raw eggs, because Japanese cuisine has historically included raw eggs throughout history. This is why the expiration date on Japanese eggs is typically much sooner than what you would find in the US or UK. Japanese eggs are shipped within a very short time frame to stores and restaurants around the country to maximize safety.
In short: While there is always a very small risk, raw eggs are consumed extremely often in Japan.
Why do people in Japan eat raw eggs? There are a lot of dishes that contain raw egg?
Yes, there are a LOT of Japanese dishes with raw egg in them. In fact, you know how many people consider ramen noodles to be “college food” outside of Japan? In Japan, the most famous college food is called “tamagokakegohan” (卵かけご飯), which is literally a raw egg mixed into white rice. It’s the quintessential “poor” food in Japan, because eggs and rice are much, MUCH cheaper in Japan than instant ramen is. In fact, many more premium brands of instant ramen can run you upwards of ￥300 yen (around $3), a far cry from 10 cent packs of Nissin chicken ramen back in the States. Eggs are cheap, and raw eggs make their way into a lot of Japanese dishes.
I understand though. I remember the look of horror on my family’s face when they came to visit me in Osaka, and the dish came with a side of rice, a bowl, and an egg. “What do you do with this?” They asked me. “You crack the egg in the bowl, and dip your food in the egg. It’s okay, eggs here are safe to eat raw. There’s almost no chance of you catching salmonella.” They quickly shot back: “Oh, but you’re saying THERE’S STILL A CHANCE!” I stared at them in awkward silence and proceeded to enjoy slurping up my raw egg. I suppose when you get used to eating something as a standard part of commonly served meals, it really doesn’t phase you anymore. I would bathe in raw egg if the opportunity presented itself. I would…I would…I would purchase a liter of raw egg juice for my meats. I DON’T CARE ANYMORE! It’s a part of my routine now. It is funny too, because I would think that the amount of artifical dyes, chemicals, and synthetic hormones PUMPED into most American foods would be much more dangerous. But hey, I enjoyed those artifical hormones, and I enjoy the raw eggs in Japan.
Who doesn’t enjoy artificial hormones?
A lot of things in life, and especially food culture, is often just a matter of perspective. With my sick egg fantasies out of the way, let’s look at some popular Japanese dishes that contain raw egg. Raw egg dishes that YOU can try when you visit Japan as well.
Japanese dish that contains raw egg #1: Sukiyaki (すき焼き)
Sukiyaki is a Japanese dish that consists of meat which is slowly cooked or simmered at the table, alongside vegetables and other ingredients. (including raw egg!) The raw egg often comes on the side in a small dish when sukiyaki is served, so you can cook the raw egg as much or little as you want, or even use it to dish the other ingredients in. It’s really good! I highly recommend trying sukiyaki while you’re in Japan, because it’s a unique dining experience that you won’t be able to experience easily outside of Japan.
Japanese dish that contains raw egg #2: Oyakodon (親子丼)
Did you know I have a YouTube channel? In the video above I talked with a friend about the absurdity of Oyakodon. So, what is an oyakodon? An oyakon is literally a “parent-and-child donburi”, “parent-and-child-bowl.” This dish is a Japanese rice bowl dish, in which chicken, egg, sliced scallion, and other ingredients are all simmered together in a kind of soup, and is complimented with a raw egg in the center of the dish to be mixed in with all of the other ingredients. It tastes great! But the name “oyakodon” is one of those situations where it’s…pretty awkard to translate the direct meaning from Japanese to English…”Parent-and-child-bowl,” (lol)
Japanese dish that contains raw egg #3: Tsukimi Udon
Udon is delicious, and is known domestically as Japan’s fast food. People GET IN, and GET OUT when they go to eat udon in Japan. In fact, there are a lot of standing udon restaurants in Japan, often placed on train platforms where people will be in and out in minutes. One common option you can see at one of these udon places is tsukimi udon, which contains freshly made udon noodles, naruto (a fish cake, not the character), and a raw egg on top. Because of the hot temperature of the broth, the egg gets…maybe quarter-cooked? It’s hard to describe, but something I would definitely recommend trying in Japan, because it lends itself perfectly to the tourists lifestyle when you’re out-and-about. Give it a shot! On top of this, there are many more dishes that are served alongside raw egg in Japan such as natto and different forms of gyudon. There are a ton of options.
Raw eggs are eaten very commmonly in Japan, because the practices of cultivating eggs are catered to this cultural standard. There is an expetation that people will consuming raw eggs for the variety of different common dishes in japan sush as sukiyaki, oyakodon, and so on. I have lived in Japan for around 7 years, and have consumed raw eggs in countless meals without any problem.
If you are interested in learning more about Japan’s food culture
Have you ever wondered how often people in Japan ACTUALLY eat sushi? There are tons of rules regarding food etiquette in Japan, and some of them are…a little strange. If you’re interested in reading about my experiences, perspective, and rules I have learned while living in Japan, feel free to check out the article below!