After a few (too many at times) rounds of drinks on a night out in Tokyo or any other city in Japan, my appetite starts to take the wheel of our next destination. Now, I’m originally from Texas, so my usual go-to after the bars close at 2am is...you guessed it—Whataburger! Obviously that option is approximately 6,500 miles from my reach, so I’ve had some adjusting to do. And that’s where the glory of the konbini (or conbini) comes in! If you aren’t familiar with the term, it’s essentially any convenience store. 7 Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson would be the biggest names you’ve probably seen around town. I know, I know. You’re probably like what? I’m not eating food from a place like that. But let me explain! Konbinis here are on a different level and serve yummy meals and snacks at prices that your bank account wouldn’t bat an eye at.
So if you find yourself wandering around the streets after hitting the bars and clubs, check out these five must-try items at your nearest konbini!
Egg Salad Sandwich
Probably not your first craving after a night out, but don’t knock it till you try it! This soon became my go-to bite no matter what time of the day. A perfectly diced and flavored egg salad placed between two soft, crustless slices of bread. And don’t get turned off by the sheer whiteness of the white bread because that was me too (as someone who regularly eats multi-grain bread) at first, and I’ve learned to look past it for an every-once-in-awhile indulgence.
Imagine biting into a delicious pork cutlet sandwich but Japanese-style. One slice of the bun’s got Kewpie mayo, the other slice spread with Japanese delightfully spicy mustard. And in between the buns a thick pork cutlet just begging you to chomp off a big bite. You can ask the clerk at the konbini to heat it up for you when you pay. I have personally eaten it cold, and I had zero complaints about its taste integrity!
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. That’s what an onigiri is: a filling of tuna, salmon, or any other fish placed inside handful of rice that is shaped into a triangle, and seaweed wrapped around to bundle it all together. I can eat about two or three of these in one sitting! They’re moderately priced at about 135 yen each, so buying an extra one for good measure is always a good idea.
Mapo Tofu Bowl
Photo Credit: Johnny Prime Steaks
Okay, so it’s not exactly Japanese, but this popular Szechuan hits the spot if you’re looking for something hearty and spicy. Sitting on top of a mound of rice is a hefty serving of soft tofu mixed with that red spicy chili oil, along with minced meat, garlic, and other flavorings. While Szechuan spice is known to give you a kick in the mouth, Japanese cuisine isn’t too spicy, so this konbini version definitely takes it a few notches down (in case you’re worried about the spice level).
Photo Credit: @Robohero
What’s curry pan you ask? It’s essentially a Japanese deep-fried donut covered in breadcrumbs and filled with beef curry. Each konbini will have a slight variation of the curry flavoring. Family Mart’s flavor is mild, nice, and uncomplicated. Whereas the curry pan from 7 Eleven leans on the sweet side. Whatever your palette may be craving at the wee hours of the night, just know that there’s a curry pan just right for you! And just like any food item at the konbini, be sure to heat this one up if you want the full flavors to come through!