Customers' personal bottles of mayonnaise at the Mayonnaise Kitchen restaurant. (Mayonnaise Kitchen)

Maniacs Add Mayonnaise to Everything They Eat
August 9, 2002

Mayonnaise, originating on the Mediterranean island of Minorca, appeared in Japan close to 80 years ago. Made largely of eggs and oil, the dressing has long since found its own place in the Japanese diet. Its consumption has continued to rise, and there has recently been a marked increase, particularly among young people, in the number of fanatics who cannot help adding mayonnaise to everything they eat, including cooked-and-complete dishes. They are called mayora - a coinage combining the first half of mayonnaise and the English suffix -er or -or (as in driver or visitor).

Mayonnaise Galore
Many unique mayonnaise combinations are to be found in Japan, several of which have been around for quite some time. In 1983 the convenience store chain Seven-Eleven Japan introduced an onigiri (rice ball, usually with a filling of some sort) with tuna mayonnaise inside, and in 1989 McDonald's Japan invented the Teriyaki McBurger, containing a patty dipped in a soy-sauce-based sauce and topped with vegetables and mayonnaise. Although the popularity of food offered at convenience stores and fast-food restaurants tends to pass quickly, both items continue to enjoy high sales.

Rice topped with pork and kimchi and flavored with mayonnaise. (Mayonnaise Kitchen)

In addition to tuna mayonnaise, rice balls sold today at convenience stores in Japan come with a wide range of mayonnaise-flavored fillings, such as shrimp with mayonnaise, cod roe with mayonnaise, chicken with mustard mayonnaise, and spicy pickles with mayonnaise. These rice balls are particularly favored by young Japanese, who find nothing unusual about combining mayonnaise with very Japanese ingredients like rice and soy sauce. Among the other foods popular with young people are mayonnaise-flavored snacks, including potato chips. The dressing has even become a common pizza topping.

Mayonnaise Kitchen is a restaurant in Hachioji, in the western outskirts of Tokyo, that uses mayonnaise in every dish it serves, as well as in some of its cocktails and desserts. Regular customers who want to add still more mayonnaise to the dishes can even buy a personal bottle of it and keep it at the restaurant until they finish it. Mayonnaise Kitchen (site is Japanese only) opened two years ago, and it has been successful enough to start a second outlet in the nearby town of Tachikawa in April 2002.

Ideas and Innovations
About 15 years ago, more than half of the Japanese people ate mayonnaise only as a dipping for raw vegetables. But nowadays a growing number think of it as just another seasoning and use it to cook a variety of meat and vegetable dishes. The Website of Q.P. Corp., Japan's top mayonnaise maker, offers many original recipes using mayonnaise. The ideas include cake with mayonnaise in its dough and pork slices sautéed in mayonnaise instead of oil.

Mayonnaise is an emulsion of oil and either vinegar or lemon juice, which normally do not blend. Heating the mayonnaise breaks the emulsion, though, and the oil separates from the rest of the dressing. When an omelet is made using beaten eggs with a small amount of mayonnaise added in, the separated oil spreads throughout the eggs in tiny bubbles, preventing the eggs from hardening and resulting in a fluffy omelet. Mayonnaise can also be used to give body to otherwise light-flavored food.

The popularity of the dressing has spurred research on the development of new products. One of the problems with using mayonnaise in frozen entrees used to be that the taste would be ruined when the food was heated in a microwave oven due to the separation of oil. Since 1998 Asahi Denka Co. has been marketing a mayonnaise-like dressing for business use that does not separate when heated thanks to a proprietary solid fat. The product had the shortcoming of being more sour than the average mayonnaise, but in April 2002 the company came out with an improved product that is 20% less sour.

Because its main ingredients are egg yolk and oil, mayonnaise is high in calories and cholesterol. For this reason, some people refrain from using the dressing. While insisting that the cholesterol found in mayonnaise should not be a health concern, in February 2002 Q.P. Corp. nevertheless introduced a new mayonnaise-type dressing made with egg yolk from which the cholesterol content has been removed using proprietary technology.

With an ever-growing range of products and dishes for every person and every need, mayonnaise is becoming an essential part of the Japanese diet.

Copyright (c) 2002 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.
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