Which conbini makes the best salmon rice ball: 7-Eleven, Family Mart, or Lawson?

Onigiri, or balls of rice wrapped in seaweed and stuffed with whatever you want, are a staple of Japanese bento boxes and quick lunches, a simple but delicious and filling snack that comes in all kinds of flavors. The fact that they’re easy to make, easy to carry, and easy to eat makes them a universally popular Japanese food.

June 18 was Onigiri Day, so our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa decided the best way to celebrate was to taste test onigiri from three different convenience stores to find out which one is the best. He decided to use his favorite, the salmon onigiri, as the test subject. It’s soft and juicy, and the finely shredded and perfectly salted fish is an excellent complement to the light rice and mild seaweed. But do the flavors of this classic rice ball vary when made by different convenience stores?

It was up to him to find out.

Now, we’ve previously done an investigation into which convenience store salmon onigiri is the best, but that was almost seven years ago. In that time, the recipes have most certainly changed, and so a renewed investigation is required, for the sake of journalism, of course.

So without further ado, let’s begin.

The onigiri we bought came from 7-Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson. To start with, the prices of each of the different onigiri were about the same. Lawson’s and Family Mart’s came out to 150 yen (US$1.41) each, and for some reason 7-Eleven’s was 151 yen, 1 yen more.

Outside of their packaging, the three rice balls looked almost identical. This surprised Seiji a little; of course, the salmon rice ball is pretty simple, but he expected them to look somewhat different, coming from different companies.

But even if they don’t look different, they might taste different. The logical next step in the experiment was to take a little bite out of each and compare.

Mm. Yes, the unmistakable flavor of a salmon rice ball. At first bite, there didn’t seem to much difference between them. Seiji believed that if he’d only eaten one at a time, he probably wouldn’t have noticed a difference. But as he took alternating bites out of each, tasting each one repeatedly, the differences became very clear.

First, let’s talk about Family Mart’s Beni Shake salmon onigiri. The salmon in this one was packed pretty tightly into a clump in the center. The flakes of salmon were also quite small. All in all, it was a standard convenience store rice ball.

Lawson’s Yaki Shake Hogushi, or Grilled Salmon Flakes rice ball, on the other hand, had salmon flakes that were much more plump, and they weren’t packed in quite so tightly. The flavor of the ingredients came through much more clearly in this rice ball. The rice was also nice and fluffy, and felt more loosely packed than the Family Mart onigiri. The more Seiji ate it, the less it felt like a convenience store rice ball.

7-Eleven’s Beni Shake salmon rice ball had the look and feel of a rice ball made by hand. Flavor-wise, it was similar to Lawson’s. In fact, even after repeated taste testing, it was difficult to tell the difference between the two.

In our previous comparison tests of convenience store rice balls, 7-Eleven came out on top, but Lawson was always close behind. In this contest, though, Seiji had a hard time deciding which was better. In the end, it came down to one thing, and one thing only: the 1 yen difference in price.

Lawson wins by just 1 yen! A victory by the skin of its nose. Seiji had even resorted to comparing the photos of the rice balls before coming to this conclusion, so it was not a decision made lightly. But in the end, Lawson emerged victorious against Seven Eleven for the first time.

Well, it’s no surprise that they won. If Lawson’s fried chicken is good enough to be requested by astronauts in space, their rice balls must be pretty delicious, too!

Photos © SoraNews24
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