Everything I Miss From A Japanese Konbini

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Once in a while, I like to sit and take a few moments daydreaming about being somewhere else and eating something delicious — tell me I’m not the only one! Today, I was thinking of Japan. There are so many opportunities to find great food around every corner, it really makes me want to go back.


Many people love ramen and go grab a hearty bowl of ramen when they land - Japan is ramen heaven after all! Heck, we love ramen so much we even made an Ippudo and Ichiran inspired travel tag. 


While there are a lot of amazing food options, I’m always the most excited about returning to their convenience stores (the konbini!) and I NEED to share about it with you. No, the amazing things you hear about their food aren’t a myth. Yes, it’s as magical as people toot them to be! If you’ve never been, picture what they show you in anime and imagine it to be a million times better.


There are different convenience stores dotting the cities and which store is most prominent usually depends on which area you’re in. The main chains are 7-Eleven, Family Mart and Lawsons, plus smaller brands at train stations and residential areas. If you’re wondering which store is the best, their selection is pretty similar (i.e. they’re all good), but some stores may have exclusive products.


Here’s a list of my go-to items when I’m at a konbini!

1. Onigiri

The onigiri, the little triangular rice ball, has to be my favourite thing from the convenience store. It’s amazing how many different types they have! I appreciate their ingenious packing that keeps the seaweed separate from the rice until you’re ready to eat it so it’s always crispy. My go-to is the one with a soft-boiled egg inside — the yolk is always so perfect!!


2. Tamago Sando

Why is everything in Japan always packed so perfectly? This includes the delicious egg sandwiches you can find at the convenience store. I love that the egg salad is always so rich and creamy, with a hint of sweetness. But, the star of the show is the pillowy soft bread that it’s sandwiched between! Each bite is so pleasant and makes you look forward to the next bite before you’ve even started chewing. 

Lisa Corson for The New York Times

3. Nikuman

There’s nothing more comforting than holding a hot bun in your hands while it’s freezing cold outside, and having deep conversations with your childhood friend (also another classic scene from anime). I love the nikuman, which is a steamed pork bun, you get from convenience stores because they’re always so steamy and juicy, and cheap too! They also double up as an edible handwarmer if you’re exploring the streets in the cold.

4. Oden

Tofu, daikon, boiled eggs, fish cake — anything you can name for the perfect oden, you can normally find at the konbini during the colder seasons. The konbini is always the pitstop for me to warm up (plus and excuse to browse more snacks)  and this is a comforting snack to get before being on your way back to the hotel and AirBnB again. That hot dashi broth and fish cakes really hit the spot!


5. Instant Noods

Get your mind out of the gutter if your thoughts went way south — I definitely meant instant NOODLES! :) It’s amazing how much selection you have here, from ramen noodles to yakisoba. I love living out my anime goals by eating my little box instant noodles at the store. You can ask the store clerk for hot water to cook it and enjoy a quick bite while watching the world pass by.


TIP: If you’re looking for the Michelin-Star cup noodle, they’re the Nakiryu Dandan noodles, and can only be found at 7-Eleven!

 

6. Soft-Boiled Egg

If I’m feeling fancy and want to upgrade my instant noodles, I’ll also pick up a pack of soft boiled eggs. I've never been disappointed whenever I get them! It’s always well-seasoned and the yolk is always perfectly cooked. How they can get each egg so on-point each time still remains a mystery to me, but I'm definitely not complaining.

 

7. Snacks, Snacks, Snacks

From candies to chocolates, to chips, they’ve got the entire assortment. I love popping into the convenience store to pick out my snacks for the day as I go exploring — you know, in case the munchies hit! They also have a great selection of ice creams and desserts available. In light of the recent bubble tea trend, there have been many sightings of bubble PUDDING on Instagram. That’s definitely on my wishlist if I get to make a trip to Japan in the near future!


8. Chu-Hi

There are days where a drink would be a nice accompaniment to the goodies I buy, and grabbing a chu-hi is perfect if I want something alcoholic but not too strong. Chu-Hi is short for shochu highball, and comes in all sorts of flavours nowadays!



Phew, that was a long list… And to be honest it can be even longer. If I had a choice (and stomach space), I’d just buy everything. But these are the top 8 items that I'd go for first! 


On a side note, I think we can all safely say that my favourite thing from the konbini is actually all the egg-related items, haha (I didn’t even realise it until now).


Have you been to a konbini before? If so, what are your favourite items? If not, what do you look forward to trying when you get the chance to go to Japan?

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