When I first came to Japan, I was dazzled by the array of foods offered at convenience stores. I think everybody from the US is blown away by Japanese convenience stores because they’re so impressive, and also because ours back home stink. They usually have just a crusty 3-day-old taquito rotating in the oven looking like it died and forgot to lie down.
Japanese convenience stores offer all kinds of different food. The only trouble is that when you first go to Japan, you have no idea what any of it is.The best quick and easy convini food in Japan is the onigiri. This is a rice ball with something inside. But when you can’t read the labels, the only way you know what’s inside is by biting into it. And that’s not always a good idea.
Sandwiches are safe and familiar. You can see what’s in them, and it’s usually normal sandwich-type ingredients like cheese, ham, lettuce, etc. Sure, they have yakisoba sandwiches and sandwiches with unidentified fried things inside for when you’re feeling adventurous, but you can always stick to the standard stuff as well.
A Look Inside The Convini Sandwich
What’s truly amazing about the convini sandwich is that you get 3, 4 or more sandwiches in one. The package is triangular and it contains 2 or more triangular slices of different sandwiches. I guess they have a factory somewhere where they must have sheets of bread and they make these massive sandwiches and then cut them up and mix and match them.
My old favorite was always the tuna and egg pack. The tuna is really delicious (as you might imagine here in Japan). The egg is alright; the tuna was always the big draw for me.
They also have BLTs, which are pretty good except for the fact that bacon in Japan is uncooked or barely cooked, so it’s basically ham. The potato salad sandwich is an awesome Japanese innovation, and the fried pork cutlet sandwiches are a hearty, on-the-go meal.
There are even sweet sandwiches for when you need a sugar rush in a hurry. They have sandwiches with strawberries and cream inside! Why didn’t we ever think of that in the US?
Processed Beyond Recognition
I love these sandwiches but I shouldn’t. The reason is that I love thick, chunky, heavy, brown, whole-wheat bread with nuts and raisins and other things in it. The bread on these sandwiches makes Wonder Bread look like a home-baked organic loaf of whole wheat.
I can only imagine that this bread must be made in that same factory through a chemical reaction of some kind. It’s pure white and starchy, thin and soft, and of course, flavorless. It’s so soft you can actually roll it up. Even though this bread is only fit for feeding pigeons, I’ve somehow come to love in over the course of my years in Japan.
This bread also seems to be made somehow without crust. The sandwiches are crustless and no matter how you look, you can find no evidence that there was ever crust on them.
Even today, when I know well the wonders of onigiri, nikuman, and all the other treats available at the convini, I still always grab these strange little sandwiches. I can’t help it; they’re addictive.
*By the way, here’s something I discovered in the last year or so – buy a convini sandwich (preferably with cheese somewhere in it), take it home and grill it in the toaster oven. The bread comes alive!