‘A box without hinges, key or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid. What is it?’
The answer to the classic riddle is, of course, an egg. And a new spin on that ‘golden treasure’ is on the rise in China, with a wave of new interest in edible raw eggs.
Since 2020 Huang Tiane (or Yellow Swan), a brand that sells raw, “nutritious” and “salmonella-free” eggs, has been promoting itself through commercials with lines such as: “These days, more and more mothers feed their children not eggs, but Huang Tiane”.
There’s been some indirect help from state broadcaster CCTV too: one of its news features described eating raw eggs recently as “the first choice of a new generation of consumers” and as “safe, nutritious, and delicious”.
It pointed out that raw eggs, when eaten safely and responsibly, are more nutritious than the cooked version, which can lose up to 30% of their vitamin content.
Huang Tianhe’s eggs are being positioned as higher-end alternatives to regular eggs. At about Rmb40 ($5.91) a box, they are often double the price. Some of this premium is due to the higher costs in the quality control for ‘raw’ eggs (protection against salmonella being a top priority) but it’s also a function of demand. Interest in the trend of eating them raw has been increasing, according to the ‘2021 China Raw Egg Report’ released by Huang Tiane with Yicai Global and Tmall Foods. Edible raw eggs were the fastest growing category in Tmall egg sales in 2020, growing more than 200% year-on-year. In 2021, sales of raw eggs on JD.com increased by 116% on the year before, and data from Alibaba’s supermarket platform HEMA suggests that its raw eggs accounted for 40% of egg sales in the same year.
“They taste fresh from the moment they’re in your mouth,” claimed one weibo user. “Truly delicious – I’m reluctant to fry them!”
The trend for raw eggs is relatively new to China, inspired by their usage in Japanese cuisine, where they can be seen topping bowls of udon and soba noodles, or added to a bowl of rice, or else beaten into a dip for beef sukiyaki. Some younger Chinese also seem bored with the simpler techniques of boiling, steaming, frying and scrambling. Newer and trendier ways of cooking and eating eggs are becoming more mainstream.
In one example, raw eggs have become popular enough that Baidao Tea has worked on a collaboration with Huang Tiane to release a set of raw egg-infused milk teas. One weibo user expressed initial disbelief at the proposal, scoffing that “the milk tea industry has run out of ideas”. But after trying the drinks, they soon changed their tone, reckoning that the egg gave the drink a “thick and silky” quality and a “milky fragrance, without any raw taste”.
“It is the taste of summer in one mouthful,” reads the glowing review. “Don’t worry about any raw taste – it can only be said to be even more rich and delicious!”
The advantages of raw eggs: the whites are full of protein and contain no fat; the yolks are rich in healthy fats and vitamins A, D and E, as well as choline, which is good for your eyes. The main risk in eating them raw: when the egg is cracked, salmonella bacteria on the shell can touch the egg white and end up in the bowl. Doctors generally advise children, pregnant women and elderly people to avoid raw eggs.
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