Torisashi (鳥刺し) is chicken sashimi — i.e. slices of raw chicken.
It is also known as tori tataki (鳥たたき) — i.e. chicken tataki — since the surface of the meat is typically seared.
Wait … can you eat RAW chicken?? Won’t you get salmonella poisoning???
Eating raw chicken is a huge no-no in Western countries, but it is a delicacy in Japan, and has been around since the 1600s.
It is especially common/famous in Kagoshima Prefecture (Kyushu region) .
Of course, you can’t just eat ANY raw chicken…
In this article, I take a detailed look at torisashi — how it’s prepared, different types, its history, and where to try it.
Let’s get started!
Is it safe? Torisashi preparation standards
First, torisashi is not just any chicken meat from your local supermarket.
So, please don’t go to your local shop and start chomping down on raw chicken. You will get very sick.
Even in Japan, you should only buy torisashi prepared from certain areas or certified shops / producers.
For example, Kagoshima Prefecture has set very strict processing and hygiene standards for torisashi. It includes standards for:
- Processing plants
- Restaurants and retailers
- Storage temperature and transportation
Some rules include: removing and sterilizing the internal organs; searing the surface of the meat to sterilize; using special cutting boards and knives for cutting the chicken; cooling the meat to 10 degrees celsius or below.
Kagoshima torisashi also only uses local free-range chickens known as Satsuma Jidori (さつま地鶏)
There is also an independent group in called the “Torisashi Association” (とりさし協会) that certify businesses that have passed their own strict standards.
Many different parts of the chicken are served as sashimi. This includes:
Similar to fish sashimi, torisashi is often dipped in soy sauce and eaten.
A sweet soy sauce is usually used, as that is what is more popular in the Kyushu.
Other seasonings and garnishes like garlic, onion, ginger, perilla and green onions are also often used.
Since the surface of the meat is seared (for sterilization purposes), torisashi is also known as toritataki.
History of Torisashi
During the Edo period (1603 to 1868), samurai in Kagoshima Prefecture used chickens to participate in cockfights. It is said that the losing chicken would be killed and eaten immediately on the spot (i.e. eaten raw). This slightly barbaric practice was the start of torisashi.1https://www.maff.go.jp/j/keikaku/syokubunka/k_ryouri/search_menu/menu/torisashi_kagoshima.html
Risks of eating torisashi
Raw chicken meat can be contaminated with harmful bacteria like Campylobacter and Salmonella. If ingested, it can lead to severe food poisoning and potentially hospitalization.
The harmful bacteria mainly resides in the chicken’s internal organs, which is why careful removal and sterilization of organs is an important part of the torisashi preparation process. If not done properly, the meat can easily be contaminated.
Even with proper preparation and processing, there is still always some risks when eating raw chicken.
Where to Eat Torisashi
Torisashi is most popular in the Kyushu region of Japan. Specifically, in the prefectures of Kagoshima, Miyazaki, and Oita.
Torisashi is so common in these areas that you can simply buy it pre-packaged at the supermarket.
Despite eating so much raw chicken, Kagoshima actually has lower than average food poisoning rates caused by chicken compared to the rest of Japan2https://www.haccp-log.jp/鹿児島の県民食「鳥刺し」は安全なのか？/. This is thanks to the strict standards for preparing and serving raw chicken set by the local governments and business organizations.
If not in Kyushu, you can still find torisashi around Japan, most commonly at yakitori restaurants.
Now it’s your turn:
Have you ever tried torisashi (i.e. chicken sashimi)?
If not, would you try it?
Let me know in the comments below: