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What’s the Deal with Jidori Eggs?

The egg of the moment, the jidori, is showing up in restaurants all over town. But are they the real thing?

In Japan, jidori chickens must have at least 50 percent jidori ancestry, tracing back to breeds that existed in Japan before 1912. One of the most common breeds today, the Hinai-jidori, is a cross between a Rhode Island Red and a Hinai-dori. Its eggs are prized for their deep-orange yolks, so rich that they’re used raw as a dipping sauce.

But here in America, our “jidori” eggs are likely a smooth, dark imposter. David Will of Chino Valley Ranchers faces a demand for the eggs that he labels “dark yolk,” often called jidori on menus. The color comes from the hens’ vegetarian diet, which gives the eggs a rating of 13 on the Roche egg pigmentation scale. (The average is around 7.) The three breeds used by Chino Valley trace back to the Rhode Island Red, but the same hens are used to produce regular organic eggs.

Still, Hiro Sone pays 50 cents for each locally sourced “jidori” egg that he uses to top the ramen at Ame. And at Oakland’s Hopscotch, Kyle Itani thinks the same jidori lookalikes are the best for his eggs Benedict. Meanwhile, Katsuhiro Yamasaki of San Mateo’s Wakuriya even uses them in crème brûlée. The chefs say that these eggs are “similar” enough in flavor to true jidoris. Besides, importing eggs from Japan would be difficult. However, Bar Tartine’s Nick Balla isn’t buying the trend, likening it to tagging American-style wagyu beef as Kobe. He says, “It’s just another fad to me.”

Originally published in the April 2013 issue of San Francisco.

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