Most Common Konbini Foods and Drinks
Konbinis are a staple of life in Japan, and you will most likely visit one whether you are planning to more to Japan or just visiting. Konbini (コンビニ) derives from コンビニエンスストア, which means convenience store, but they are much more than that! In addition to selling food and other essentials, they are a place where you can buy tickets, use wifi, scan and print documents, send mail, and pay bills! They are an important part of life in Japan due to their countless services and convenience. Something konbinis are also known for is their food!
Onigiri (お握り, おにぎり) is a classic Japanese snack. This food consists of sticky white rice shaped into balls–or more commonly, triangles–wrapped in seaweed and with a filling. Typical fillings include tuna with mayonnaise, dried fish, meat simmered in soy sauce, and pickled fruits or vegetables. Variations of onigiri exist too. Yaki onigiri (焼おにぎり, やきおにぎり) is onigiri covered in sauce and grilled to create a crispy exterior. Onigirazu (おにぎらず) is an onigiri sandwich with eggs and/or meat between pads of rice.
The most common type of onigiri found at konbinis is packaged in unique, triangle shaped wrappers. These wrappers keep the seaweed from touching the rice and thus keep it crisp. The package copens in three steps that are labeled on the outside.
Konbinis are known for their sandwiches (サンドイッチ), nicknamed sando (サンド). The three most popular konbini sandos are the egg sando, katsu sando, and fruit sando.
The egg sandwich, or tamago sando (たまごサンド), is a typical egg salad sandwich on white bread. They sometimes include an entire boiled egg in the center. These sandwiches are creamy and rich in flavor so have become quite popular!
The katsu sando (カツサンド) includes katsu, a chicken or pork cutlet that has been coated in panko and deep fried. The cutlet is served between slices of milk bread (soft white bread) with cabbage and tonkatsu sauce.
Fruit sandos (フルーツサンド) are almost too pretty to eat! These sandwiches are made on soft and fluffy milk bread with sweet whipped cream in the middle. Fresh fruit, like strawberries, oranges, grapes, and kiwi, is placed in the center. Sometimes the fruit is cut into unique shapes to create images, like flowers or hearts, when the sandwich is cut in half.
Bentos (弁当, べんとう) are a classic Japanese lunch. These pre-packaged boxes include an assembly of foods that are perfect to grab for lunch. Bentos consist a side of rice or sushi, vegetables, and a protein such as fish, chicken, or pork. Side dishes and small meals are also available pre-packaged at konbinis. Things like karaage (から揚げ, からあげ) and yakitori (焼き鳥, やきとり) can be found in the hot food section of the store, kept warm and ready to be eaten! Sushi (寿司, すし) on its own is also available in pre-packaged containers and comes in many varieties.
Oden (御田, おでん) is a warm Japanese comfort food, so konbinis sell it during the fall and winter months. This hotpot dish is made up of multiple foods simmering together in a dashi and soy sauce broth. Foods included are daikon radish, boiled eggs, fishcakes, tofu, and konjac. Konbinis will have a large pot of oden set out so customers can select their bowl and scoop out their serving.
There is no shortage of instant ramen (ラーメン) in Japan–konbinis are no exception! At most konbinis, you will find a wide variety of instant noodles to choose from. These cups come individually and can be eaten right at the store. Konbinis offer hot water in kettles that can be used to heat up your noodles. Most stores also have sitting areas where you can enjoy your quick meal.
Buckwheat soba noodles (蕎麦, そば) are also available. These dishes usually come pre-cooked and can be served hot or cold. Cold soba noodles (ざる蕎麦, ざるそば) are the most common at konbinis. They typically come with a side of sauce that the noodles can be dipped into.
Konbinis usually have a hot drinks counter where you can make yourself a cup of coffee (コーヒー) or tea (お茶, おちゃ). Brewed tea, coffee machines, and add-ins are available to make your drink. Some konbinis even offer special drinks like lattes.
However, bottled drinks are definitely the star of konbini beverages. Konbinis offer many bottled and canned drinks from water to tea and coffee to even alcohol! Green tea is the most popular of the bottled drinks, but nearly any kind of tea can be found in a konbini fridge. More surprisingly, konbinis carry canned coffee! Cold coffee also comes in countless flavors. Many types of alcohol, including beer, wine, and sake, are also available in both cans and bottles.
One more peculiar bottled drink available is Pocari Sweat (ポカリスエット). This drink may sound weird due to its name, but it is quite popular. It is a sweet but light sports drink meant to boost electrolytes.
Konbinis also have cases filled with different types of baked goods. These can range from sweet to savory. Sweet baked goods include melon pan (メロンパン), a soft bun with a sugary top, dorayaki (どら焼き, どらやき), two pancakes sandwiched together with red bean paste, donuts (ドーナツ), and other common pastries. Savory baked goods include curry pan (カレーパン), a bun with a curry filling, and nikuman (肉まん, にくまん), Chinese-style steamed buns filled with meat and vegetables. When buying any of these baked goods, an employee may ask you 「 温めますか？」 (あたためますか？), which means “Would you like this heated up?”
Ice cream (アイスクリーム) can also be purchased at a konbini! Pints of ice cream are available as well as individually wrapped servings. This includes popsicles, single-serve cups, ice cream sandwiches, and even pre-packaged ice cream in cones! Containers of parfait (パフェ) are also available and include toppings like ice cream, fruit, and cookies.
Last but not least are snacks and candies! Konbinis offer countless types of candies and sweets to satisfy your sweet tooth. There are dagashi (駄菓子, だがし), small, cheap penny candies, and wagashi (和菓子, わがし), traditional Japanese sweets like mochi. Sweet snacks like Pocky and cookies are known as okashi (お菓子, おかし) and are also available. Savory snacks available include everything from bags of chips to Umaibo, corn puff sticks that are a childhood classic in Japan. No matter what you are craving, konbinis can supply!
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