Compared to the rest of the world, it can be said that the product and service quality of Japanese convenience stores is high. Convenience stores now aren’t just limited to selling essential daily necessities and food items, they also provide ATMs, postal services, and other essential services tirelessly, 24 hours a day. To the people of today, the existence of convenience stores is a saving grace.
In the convenience store, the hot snacks on display next to the register are what catches your eye. From savoury snacks such as croquettes and hot dogs, to sweets like donuts, the menu is wide and varied. Even with the same menu items, different convenience store chains have their own new and unique offerings, and you have to taste them to compare them.
These hot snacks are familiar to the Japanese, but what do foreigners think about them? We surveyed some foreigners living in Japan about their convenience store hot snack preferences. Just what answers will they give?
The number one snack is chicken!
“I like 7-Eleven’s ‘deliciously spicy chicken’ the best. Japan’s convenience store chicken is juicy and 10 times better than the ones in America. It’s a lucky day if I manage to get one fresh out of the fryer!” (USA/ Male/ 30s)
“Fried chicken is delicious! Recently, I’ve also eaten yuzu chicken.” (Hong Kong/ Male/ 30s)
“Fried chicken is very yummy. I can eat it in Korea too, but Japan’s chicken is juicier and tastier.” (Korea/ Male/ 20s)
At the forefront, we have chicken. Be it karaage (fried bite-sized chicken) or fried chicken, menu items made of chicken were really popular, and are in an unshakable lead as the staple of hot snacks. There were even comments such as, “I’m really happy to be able to get such delicious chicken so easily!”.
With both region and time limited products, the variety is endless and exciting. The availability of such a wide variety of flavours is indeed rare, and unique to Japan.
The runner-up is also a meat item, sausages!
“I like sausages. If they sold hot dogs as well, that’ll be even better!” (USA/ Male/ 20s)
“Supermarket wieners are small, but the ones in the convenience store are large, so I like them!” (Hong Kong/ Male/ 20s)
The second most popular is the sausage. As expected of foreigners, meat-based menu items seem to be popular. Incidentally, the word “sausage” is the generic term for any meat stuffed casing (traditionally intestines). Wieners and frankfurters are all types of sausages, and they differ by size and thickness. The type used in convenience store hot snacks is the frankfurt, and with its large size and volume, it can easily satisfy those with a small appetite.
“Chuuka-man” (Chinese style buns), popular in winter, is a hot favourite as well!
“When I came to Japan, I was blown away that such a delicious food existed. I highly recommend niku-man (meat buns) to all foreigners!” (China/ Male/ 20s)
“I eat it often. Pizza-man (bun with pizza filling) is delicious and I love it! The melting cheese is the best!” (Mongolia/ Female/ 20s)
Unexpectedly, Chinese cuisine such as niku-man received rave reviews from the Chinese. They seem really surprised that something so delicious exists. Someone commented, “It’s so soft, and you can’t eat such a fluffy bun in China. Everyone thinks that I’m lying about this but you have to eat it to believe it.”
Incidentally, though this comment isn’t about hot snacks, we have this comment from a 20 year old male from Taiwan: “You must definitely buy the “steamed cheese bread” from the convenience store! It’s very fluffy and really delicious!!” It seems that people from Asia enjoy airy and fluffy textures.
The most disliked food by foreigners is, unexpectedly, “oden” hot pot
“To put it bluntly, it’s expensive, and it seems like something I can make myself, so don’t buy it.” (Indonesia/ Male/ 20s)
“I’m don’t really like boiled dishes like oden.” (USA/ Female/ 20s)
“Though it’s healthy, I personally don’t find oden that delicious, so I don’t really buy it.” (USA/ Male/ 30s)
To the Japanese, oden is a must-have on the menu for winter hot snacks. “Oden in winter is comforting”; “It’s just right for supper on the way home from work”; with widely held opinions like these, oden is popular among the Japanese, though foreigners seem to have differing opinions on this. As oden is made of vegetables boiled in dashi stock, it doesn’t have any distinct flavour, resulting in this surprising result.
However, another main reason for its unpopularity, besides its flavour, is its unusually high price. As it’s a hotpot dish, you can pick each oden item separately. As you pick this and that to make up a full meal’s worth of oden, it costs about as much as a set meal, resulting in poor cost performance. After all, one of the key points of convenience store foods is in its affordable prices. Besides this, there were also those that felt oden should be eaten at a proper oden shop instead.
Moving forward, keep your eyes peeled for new convenience store hot snacks!
In the survey this time, except for fried chicken, fried foods such as French fries, croquettes, and corn dogs, and desserts such as donuts and soft cream, were rarely mentioned. Dessert and sweets selections, in particular, did not seem very well known. Besides this, oden was a lot less popular than expected. This is probably a food that is only well accepted by the Japanese, with their strong hotpot culture.
However, in general, it was the convenience store snacks that are fried, steamed, or prepared in-store, and not those that were pre-made, that received positive reviews. Points such as the convenience and interesting variety, and going to the convenience store daily, are opinions shared regardless of nationality.
Recently, as the lineup of hot snacks evolve and change, your world begins to widen as well. Beyond just a small snack between meals, be it for your main dish for dinner tonight, snacks to go with your drinks, and even coffee and shakes that on par with café quality, the variety continues to expand. I’m looking forward to being amazed by the things that convenience stores will sell, and for the world to be amazed too!
Written by:Miyuki Yajima
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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