Culinary Convenience: Japanese "Konbinis" and What to Buy (LOTS)
You may have heard that chef David Chang's favorite egg sandwich comes from 7/11 in Tokyo. You probably laughed to yourself, thinking of the 7/11 nearest you, filled with cereal bars and sugared slurpees with a stench of excrement permeating the surrounding 50 feet. Well, I'm here to tell you, us nonJapanese are really missing out in our convenience stores.
In Japan, conveinece stores are really that. Convenient. Not only can you grab a candy bar there, but a truly good full meal (including medium shelf whisky). You can also pay your rent, drop off or pick up packages, buy tickets to the next concert, or snag some underwear or a new tie if you happened to fall asleep at the office. Oh, and their beautifully clean, filled with helpful staff, and play happy, boppy jazz 24/7.
This last trip to Tokyo I made it a priority- no, a MISSION- to find the best the big three have to offer, big three being 7/11, Family Mart, and Lawson. Whether you're looking for soup & salad, a gut sticking meal, dessert, or drinks, I've got you covered. Trust, your stomach will be singing, for less than $10 a meal.
Egg salad sandwich- the world-renowned chefs had it right, it's the best. They have 'em at each konbini, but 7/11 tops the rest. Price: 208Y
Ramen eggs- Stunningly soft-boiled eggs marinated in an oh-so-secret-to-me sauce, available at each mart but these are the best by far (and cheapest)! Price: 140Y (for 2)
Sous vide chicken breast- Sous vide chicken in a store? with delicate marinades? for under $2? Yessssss. Versions at every konbini, but cheapest here. Price: 198Y
Chocolate-dipped cake donuts and glazed donuts- Donuts here are not quite the same, but these are both real good. More spongey (foamy? really) and light than you would expect. 100Y
Bakery items- 7/11 is generally considered superior at the baked goods in general. My faves include: corn salad bread thing (trust), curry fried thing, and ham and cheese twist thing. Price: 100-150Y
Freeze dried soup! 100-200Y
Brownie- If you're feeling food lonely, this is solid. Japan often makes half-western, half-Japanese desserts, but this one is pretty spot on brownie. Price: 298Y
Curry- If don't have to grab and go, their boxed curries are yum. They do Japanese, Thai, and Indian varieties. Price: 190-300Y
0 kal jello- so, with all this delicious, carb packed food, maybe you need a break every once in a while? This is a zero calorie jello (made of fermented coconut) that's actually pretty good. Price: 170Y
Azuki whip- the azuki paste, whipped to a light snack...need I say more? Price: 200Y
Azuki frozen yogurt pop- you can find azuki in nearly everything here, and the sweet paste is played off nicely here with tangy frozen yogurt. Price: 130Y
Ume crackers- And you thought the pickled plums were good. Try these. I got 4 to bring home. Price: 180Y
Sparkling lychee beer thing?- Family Mart usually has the best overall liquor selection, but this drink I haven't seen anywhere, liquor stores included. At 7% alcohol, I can't quite figure out what it is, but let's say beer for ease's sake. It's light, great for summer, delicious, and potent enough to justify. Price: 140Y
rare cheesecake- the consistancy of flan but the taste of a delicate cheesecake. Yum Price: 120Y
Sometimes the same brand is offered at any store, or the products are so similar it doesn't matter where you get it.
Pickled or dried plums- the Japan favorite ume doesn't only come in alcohol. Cinvenience stores offer cured versions that are sweet or sour, as well as dried sprinkled with salt or honey. They're all delicious. Price: 129Y
Sesame salad dressing- to be used on much more than just salad. Add this to rice, dip meat in, this creamy rich dressing is good for about anything. Price: about 230Y
Pickled cucumber- mild enough for a pickle newbie, these sesame sprinkled veggies maintain their snap and are completely refreshing. Price: about 230Y
Chestnuts- why, oh why must we westerners save these delicious treats for Christmas time? At the konbini, they're precooked and packaged in single serving sizes... you might need two. Price: about 230Y
Barista Black Coffee- If you need a jolt of caffeine while you're traipsing about Tokyo and don't want to spend the usual 600Y at a coffee shop, grab one of these. You can grab it from the fridge or "hot fridge" at any konbini, and it's a reliable, good, dark roast coffee. Cheaper than the average large konbini coffee even! Price: 129Y
Chinese Tofu Curry- a richly spiced curry with silken tofu and beef (?), I think. A great, filling lunch for less than a fiver. Price: about 460Y
Royal Milk Tea- I have no clue why we haven't figured this stuff out yet, it's devine. It almost feels like there's some taro flavor in there, but I can't read the label to be sure. Anyway, take it from a lactose intolerant- it's, well worth it. Price: 140Y
Onigiri- Obviously. This has to be the most convenient on the go snack ever, and theres a filling for everyone. My favorites are the ramen egg on fried rice or the pumpkin at Natural Lawson. Price: 100-250Y
Pocari Sweat- tasting of real citrus, this drink is filled with electrolytes and vitamins- just what you need if you've gone a little too hard at karaoke the night before. Price: 140Y
Ice cream waffle sandwich- This idea is so simple and delicious, I don't know why these aren't around elsewhere. The ice cream is so smooth, and the chocolate layer just enough. Price: 130Y
Tea- well, duh. Try out all of 'em, from the barley, to toasted rice, to jasmine, to green and even iced matcha. Super tasty. Price: 100-190Y
Supplement drinks- So, there's a wall of teeny shot drinks when you walk into a konbini. You know overpriced juicery shots? Well, Japan got there first, and there's a lot more interesitng. Claiming to cure everything from a common cold, to a hangover, to the aging process, $2 can buy you some assurance. Price: 100-270ishY
Matsuya cider candy- normal hard candy...except....it bubbles? Price: 200Y
This is only the best and most interesting of the best..... You could spend your whole trip wandering into different convenience stores and never tire.