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Like many people who grew up in the US, I used to think of food cooked at a convenience store as the absolute last resort for sustenance. Things are different in Japan though, where the hygienic, attentively-staffed convenience stores are more akin to compact local grocers. Aside from a variety of boxed lunches, you can even get tasty hot food, such as fried chicken.

Fried chicken, it just so happens, is the traditional choice in Japan for Christmas Eve dinner, so with the holiday fast approaching we decided to stage a little taste test to see which convenience store’s fried chicken is the best.

“Hold on,” some of you might be thinking. “No one eats friend chicken at Christmas. You mean turkey, right?”

Nope. Turkey is hard to come by in Japan, and we Americans had to make do without the bird on Thanksgiving (although we were consoled by it coinciding with Knee-High Socks Day in our adopted nation). Likewise, there’s no practice of eating turkey for Christmas here either, with fried chicken taking its place.

Some foreigners in Japan have a hard time stomaching this switch to what is commonly considered a more down-market bird. These grumblers overlook a very important fact, however: fried chicken is always delicious. If you ever find yourself eating fried chicken that’s not delicious, stop immediately, take a closer look, and then gasp in shock as you realize you’ve been chowing down on a hunk of solidified wheat germ by mistake.

But while all fried chicken is delicious, which is the most delicious? And while we’re at it, let’s toss in the extra criteria that it’s got to be cheap. Anyone can get their hands on some tasty Christmas Eve bird if they’re willing to pay through the nose for it. That may be a worthwhile investment for couples who are planning to get cozy on Japan’s biggest date night, but what about the rest of us? If your plans for December 24 are limited to hanging out at home with some friends while Japanese radio plays its holy triumvirate of English Christmas songs (“Last Christmas,” “All I Want for Christmas is You,” and “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”) for the 100th time that day, odds are you’re looking for a little cost-performance.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right into our multi-sourced basket of fried poultry.

1. Lawson’s Golden Chicken (180 yen/US $1.80)

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Lawson gets its chicken from China, and it comes seasoned with a blend of 12 herbs and spices (take that, KFC!). The name comes from the thin, golden breading, which is just like we like it: crispy. The meat itself is tasty, and while some may find it a little tough, we think the level of pleasant firmness is just about perfect.

2. Family Mart’s Premium Chicken (180 yen/US $1.80)

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Family Mart started the push for slightly more expensive, much better-tasting fried chicken at convenience stores with its Premium Chicken. The meat comes from Thailand, and just barely clears the internationally-recognized Colonel Sanders Line with 11 herbs and spices. Family Mart’s offering has the mildest flavor and most balanced crispiness among the three challengers, giving it the broadest appeal of the group.

3. Mini Stop’s Goku-Uma Chicken (180 yen/US $1.80)

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The tale of the tape is similar for the Goku-Uma (Super Delicious) Chicken and Lawson’s Golden Chicken. Same Chinese-sourced bird, same number of seasonings. Where the two differentiate is in the cooking process, with the final stage of preparation for the Goku-Uma being done in the microwave. This makes the meat tender, but unfortunately the breading is on the soft and doughy side. Mini Stop’s chicken had the strongest flavor out of the bunch, and would be our choice for enjoying with a nice Christmas beer.

While we had set out to find the best convenience store fried chicken, each is delicious in its own way, and in the end we can’t pick just one! It may be a cop-out, but we recommend grabbing all three for December 24. That may be a lot of fried chicken, but like they say, it doesn’t matter what you eat between Christmas and New Year’s, as long as you keep things healthy between New Year’s and Christmas.

Photos: RocketNew24
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