The Japanese know how to correctly cook and eat an egg (as well as process one). Sorry, American readers, but you’re probably cooking your eggs wrong. In the States it is an established fact that if you don’t cook your eggs until they are hard rubbery chunks you will get salmonella and die. In the U.S. it’s estimated that only 1 in 20,000 eggs contain the salmonella bacteria. I’ll admit that I wouldn’t eat a raw egg if I were immunocompromised, very young, pregnant, or elderly, but for healthy people the deliciousness of less-cooked eggs justifies the very very small salmonella risk. I’ll also admit that I wouldn’t be comfortable eating factory farmed eggs raw, but if you are getting fresh eggs from local farms… try making scrambled eggs that are a little runny and you’ll see what I mean. If you’re still concerned you can get pre-pasteurized eggs from some grocers that have been kept hot enough long enough to kill any potential salmonella without cooking the egg.
In Japan eggs are eaten cooked to every potential doneness. They eat their eggs:
- Onsen tomago (cooked slowly at a constant temperature for an extended period until the yolks have just barely began to set and the white is runny). Onsen tomago translates as “hot spring egg” as this is how they were originally prepared – dropped in a hot spring (63 degrees Celsius is ideal) in the morning and picked up on the way home for dinner. This lower time longer temperature cooking does completely kill salmonella.
- Soft boiled
- Sold in convenience stores as a snack. The white is set but the yolk is custardy rather than chalky like it is in a hard boiled egg.
- Hard boiled
- Just kidding – why would you cook an egg to death like this?
We’ve noticed this cook-eggs-to-death thing is not just American – in the U.K. as well nobody knew what a “soft poached” or sunny side up egg was. Eggs, whether scrambled or fried, were cooked until rubbery – always.
Fortunately we had rid ourselves of the egg-death fear long before we came to Japan, so we’re making the most of all these delicious, runny (and raw) eggs.