4 Raw Foods other than Fish to Try in Japan!


Quick: what do you think of when someone says "raw food" and "Japan?"
 
 Of course, you would think of Sushi and Sashimi.  It's only natural since sushi has become such an important cuisine all over the world.  But raw fish isn't the only 生 Nama (fresh, or raw) food Japan has to offer.  Allow me to introduce you to 4 other raw foods that you have to try when you're in Japan!
 

Eggs

When I was a kid, I only ever saw one person consume a raw egg, and that was Rocky Balboa chugging a dozen eggs before going on his morning run.
Photo courtesy of Bien.ae

Probably like you, I was always told that raw eggs could make you sick, so you should cook them first.  Besides, what kid wants to consume something that is so slimy and goopy anyway???  Well, imagine my surprise when one morning my Japanese grandmother gives me a bowl of rice and an egg still in its shell for breakfast.  After much hubbub from me and explanation from her, I learned that a fresh raw egg, beaten and mixed with a little soy sauce and poured over hot rice was a popular breakfast food in Japan.  I also learned that Nama-tamago, or raw egg, was an extremely common and popular addition to other dishes (check out the raw egg with Yoshinoya beef bowl below).

Photo courtesy of Flickr User mawari

The best way to enjoy raw egg is with sukiyaki.  The pot will cook all of the other foods (meat, tofu, veggies, etc.).  You take the egg, beat in with your chopsticks in a little serving bowl, and then dip your hot foods straight from the pot to the egg to your mouth.  It's actually pretty clever, since the cold egg cools the boiling hot food that you're about to eat while adding some tasty flavor.
 
 

Beef

There are other places in the world that offer raw beef, but nowhere that gives you the marbled delight of Wagyu, or Japanese beef.  You can find it in some sushi restaurants, but the best place to get it is in establishments that specialize in beef.  My favorite style is a thicker cut with some wasabi and ponzu sauce.  If you can, be sure to search for options like the one you see below, where the meat is well-marbled (otherwise it any fatty bits are just chewy instead of melt-in-your mouth delicious).
 

Horse

I know what you're thinking: HORSE!? NO WAY!  Well, horse meat has a storied past in Japan, especially in Kumamoto prefecture, where horse meat was eaten when Kumamoto castle fell under siege.  The besieged warriors were able to fight back and win the day, and the horse meat was ascribed special significance for its role in fueling the comeback. 

Horse meat is almost never eaten cooked in Japan; rather, the basashi, as it is called, is eaten raw with a soy-based sauce (the flavor of the sauce varies depending on region and season).
Photo courtesy of Flickr User blueriotriver

Chicken 

Funny to think that raw chicken is probably less appetizing to most of you readers out there than raw horse.  At least it was for me.  When I think raw chicken, I think "salmonella," but Japan (especially the Kyushu region) prides itself in its raw poultry.  Often served with a citrus-based sauce to manage the smell and flavor of the raw chicken, it is certainly an interesting dish for the adventurous traveler out there.

Photo courtesy of Flickr User netllama

So there you have it...


...4 raw foods that Japan has to offer.  If you are feeling like stepping out of your comfort zone a bit, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at these unique offerings, so I say zehi, give it a shot along your journeys in Japan!

Mike B