Japan Debates: What’s the Best Raw Egg on Rice Recipe?

Japan Debates: What’s the Best Raw Egg on Rice Recipe?

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Tamago kake gohan (TKG)
Picture: Nishihama / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
Do you stir before putting the egg on - or after? And IS there one right way to eat tamago kake gohan, Japan's famous raw egg on rice dish?

It’s such a simple dish you wouldn’t think there’d be any debate about it. But a huge question surrounds Japan’s tamago kake gohan, a.k.a. TKG: When do you stir the egg?!

The popularity of tamago kake gohan

Picture: gontabunta / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

Egg-based cuisine in Japan is nothing new. As an inexpensive source of protein, eggs have found their way into a number of popular Japanese dishes, from omuraisu (omelet rice) to tamagoyaki to egg salad sandwiches.

But Japan stands out for its use of raw eggs in food. Many in Japan eat dishes like tsukimi udon and sukiyaki with a raw egg cracked on top of the dish.

Perhaps one of the most popular raw egg dishes is tamago kake gohan. TKG is exactly what its name says it is: a heap of (gohan) with an egg (tamago) placed on top of it (kake). You mix the egg into the steaming hot rice, pour on some soy sauce or tsuyu sauce, and you have a nice accompaniment to your meal (or a meal in and of itself).

Tamago kake gohan dates back to Japan’s Meiji era, when eggs first began to gain popularity in the country. It didn’t take off until the Taisho and Showa eras, however, when eggs became more readily available to the public.

Some reports say that a new trend is starting to challenge TKG in Japan: TKM, short for “tamago kake men” (卵かけ麺). Said to originate from Kumagaya in Saitama Prefecture, this involves putting raw egg on top of noodles as opposed to on rice. While this option may be gaining steam, there’s little doubt that TKG will remain a ready favorite of many for years to come.

The tamago kake gohan debate: Mix the egg first? Or after?

Picture: すとらいぷ / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

While I was watching a local TV broadcast the other day, a certain segment caught my eye. It was covering a “debate” over tamago kake gohan. Which piqued my interest because what the hell can you debate about a dish with three ingredients?!

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The debate: When do you mix the egg? Do you put the whole egg on your rice first? Or do you mix it first in a separate bowl and then stir it into the rice?

Tamago kake gohan - mix the egg first or after?

My default assumption was that you put the egg on top of the rice and then mix it in – and that anyone who did anything different was a psychopath. But maybe that’s just my impression of how tamago kake gohan “ought” to be because it’s the most photogenic version.

Turns out people in Japan have debated this question for years. Interviewers who polled people randomly on the street found people who swore by each method.

Which one is more common? A poll by TV program Sodane in Hokkaido found that, at least in Hokkaido, a whopping 70% (6,972 people) of respondents preferred mixing the egg first! That may be specific to Hokkaido and to the way they did the poll, etc. But it’s clear that pre-mixing the egg is a common preparation method.

It turns out this isn’t the only controversy regarding tamago kake gohan, either. A writer for the site Daily Portalz was also surprised to discover a divide between people who mix the egg in well into their rice and those who eat it without much mixing. While the former made up the majority, a large number of respondents said they prefer to eat the dish without much mixing.

A change in flavor?

Tamago kake gohan -

So which option is “better”? According to the chef interviewed on the TV Asahi program I saw, it depends on which taste you want to emphasize. Stirring the egg first, he said, brings out the flavor of the rice. By contrast, adding the egg directly to the rice and then stirring it in brings out the flavor of the egg.

When I shared this on the UJ X account, some folks pushed back that this is superstitious garbage and that the method of stirring makes no difference. While I’m a fan of raw egg in donburi and other dishes, I’m not so much of a TKG fan that I care enough to try this myself. If you’re a tamago kake gohan lover, try both approaches yourself and see if you can taste any distinction.

Sources

約55%の人が卵かけごはんを混ぜて食べている. Daily Portalz

「卵かけご飯」卵は溶いてから?割って直接乗せる? 実は味に違いが出るらしい. J-Cast

時代はTKGから「TKM」に…麺そのものの味を堪能! ラーメンの新トレンド「卵かけ麺」3傑紹介. Friday

たまごかけご飯の「たまご」どのタイミングで混ぜる?ご飯に乗せてから混ぜる派?それとも混ぜてから掛ける派?北海道で大調査!Sodane

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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