The words “Japanese Fine Dining” and “7-Eleven” don’t really come up together all that often, but today they do. You don’t exactly think of 7-Eleven as your go to place for some Japanese eats, but surprisingly they have some really good things in store in their selection of quick microwave foods.
Here in their “Big Time Meals” selection, among some Beef Tapas, Beef Lasagnas and some “Gourmet” style sandwiches are two very, very nice Japanese dishes:
These Big Time Meals are meant to be quick, easy, microwave-dinner meals that you can eat anytime of the day, seeing as 7-Eleven became famous for its 24-hour Convenience Store approach. They’re also pretty inexpensive.
What people aren’t telling you is that some of these cheap meals are surprisingly good. I have tried their pasta, like the beef lasagna, and while it was edible, it wasn’t exactly what I’d call “Good.” So I avoided this line for a long, long time because of the bad experience I had.
However, I tried their Beef Gyudon on a whim once and I was surprised at how good it was. The rice wasn’t the cheap kind of rice you find at a nearby carinderia; nay, the rice was the kind of soft, sticky type that you’d associate at a fine Japanese restaurant!
Let me say that again: the rice used in these Japanese Big Time Meals is high-quality and not something you’d expect in a sub-100 peso product. The rice used here is much, much better than the rice you’d find in junk Japanese restaurants like Tokyo Tokyo or Komoro.
That took me for a spin, because both Komoro and Tokyo Tokyo have much more expensive dishes than these 7-Eleven Big Time Meals, yet the quality of ingredients used are less impressive. 7-Eleven’s Japanese meals even have better quality than Saibachi’s rice, which is the only “bottom feeder” Japanese restaurant chain that I consider to have acceptable rice.
Having your Japanese Big Time Meal heated is a simple affair; the friendly 7-Eleven clerks will take your payment — each meal costs around 70-80 bucks, and then heat the food for you. It’ll be ready in about 3 minutes. Each tray comes separately; the rice underneath is covered by a small plastic tray where the meat and dashi are found. They are heated separately, and this method does help preserve the rice so it’s only mixed with the dashi when you’re about to eat it. It’s a pretty ingenious maneuver.
Here is the Chicken Teriyaki:
As mentioned, the rice is really good. It’s not koshi hikari rice, but one cup of that is like twice the price of this entire meal already. My dad bought me a bowl of this once and even got a 30% senior citizen discount, making it like 50 bucks. Sweet!
The chicken is quite tender, and well-coooked prior to being put in the box. It’s refrigerated at the Big Time Meals counter, so it keeps well until someone is ready to eat and buy it. I have so far not had a bad experience with any “old stock” of these Big Time Meals, so I’m pretty confident in buying them.
The dashi was also surprisingly good, giving that sweet teriyaki taste that we all love. There’s some sesame-like taste mixed in, 7-Eleven put some thought into the recipe used and I love it.
The main issue with this meal is that it isn’t very big a serving; but at around 80 bucks a pop I am not really complaining. You can buy two and it would be just the price of a Tokyo Joe bowl.
You can also try supplementing it with a Spam Musubi, which is a 40 peso meal:
Unlike the original Hawaiian-style Spam Musubi, this one has a little omelet tucked in between the rice and the spam and it has no furikake, but it’s a surprisingly good buy at 40 bucks. Spam is not my thing, though, but those spam lovers out there should try this. It’s good.
Next time I’ll take a look at their gourmet sandwiches, which I am not considering with optimism following my good experience with their Japanese meals. It’s a far cry from their pasta meals, which were pretty forgettable, and surprisingly much better than the food you find at lower-tier Japenese restaurants.
Their boast of “The Best Japanese Flavor!” wasn’t all talk. Japanese dishes traditionally have minimal cooking preparation, so the emphasis is on using good ingredients. 7-Eleven, above and beyond my expectations, understood this and managed to pack quality ingredients into a cheap, mass-produced dish. I am floored. Keep it up, my favorite convenience store.
Sadly they don’t have Katsudon in this lineup, but that’s understandable; these were designed as quick microwave dinners; you can’t microwave katsudon and keep its essence intact: the breading would be soggy and inedible — but with something like teriyaki or beef gyuudon you can keep a fair semblance of how it’s supposed to be eaten with just a quick microwave.
Anyway, give it a try next time you pass a 7-Eleven, and let me know how you liked it in the comments below!