This taste test was nothing short of a porky paradise.

Have you ever felt like eating something, but then thought about how long it would take to prepare and just been instantly put off? Our Japanese reporter Seiji Nakazawa certainly has. One of Seiji’s favourite foods is kakuni, Japanese-style braised pork belly. But while Seiji loves braised pork and all its juicy tenderness, it needs to be stewed for a long time in order to achieve peak deliciousness.

Of course, living in Japan means Seiji has access to a number of convenience stores to help him solve his quandary. Japanese convenience stores really are… well, convenient. Need a coffee for your morning drive to work? Go to a convenience store and get one. Woke up in the middle of the night because you forgot to pay your utility bill? Go to a convenience store and pay it. Just got home from a long day’s work and are too tired to cook your favourite braised pork belly? Go to a convenience store and get it ready-made.

Luckily for Seiji, the three main convenience stores in Japan Lawson, Family Mart and 7-Eleven all sell kakuni packs, so our convenience store connoisseur can pop the packet in the microwave and enjoy it in less than two minutes.

Seiji is certainly no stranger to the world of taste comparisons, and while his taste comparison reports in the past have included some unorthodox subjects, this time he’s asking possibly the most important question of his food comparison career: which convenience store sells the best kakuni?

First off, Seiji compared how much they cost. Out of the three, the most expensive was the 7-Eleven ‘Seven Premium Gold Stewed Diced Pork’, coming in at 388 yen (US$3.65). With such an elegant name, it’s no wonder that the price was premium as well. Family Mart’s ‘Slow-cooked Kakuni’ came in second at 328 yen (US$3.09) but the straightforward sounding ‘Kakuni’ from Lawson wasn’t far behind at 322 yen (US$3.03).

At this point in the braised pork battlefield, it kind of felt like it was the all-powerful king 7-Eleven vs. the scrappy tag team duo of Family Mart and Lawson, but would this feeling continue once Seiji starting tasting them?

▼ First up was Lawson.

The first thing you notice about the Lawson pork belly is the thickness. This kind of thickness is something you might have expected from the premium 7-Eleven pork, but it was a welcome surprise to see Lawson keeping it thick, even though the price was some 60 yen cheaper.

As for the sauce, it is deliciously sweet (sweet sauce appears to be a characteristic of Lawson products) and it oozes out of the pork. The sauce is thick and rich, and the meat is melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Seiji felt like the meat had been marinated all the way to its core.

▼ Next up, Family Mart

Next up, the Family Mart kakuni. At a glance, the meat is definitely not as thick as its Lawson counterpart, but Seiji was more interested in the smell of ginger that had permeated the room when he opened the bag.

That’s right; the Family Mart pork is the only one that has ginger in the sauce. The ginger makes the pork somewhat refreshing, and the sauce in general was more silky. Compared to the Lawson sauce, the Family Mart is not as thick, meaning it would be ideal for those looking to eat light.

▼ Finally, 7-Eleven took to the stage.

It looks like it could be the end for the high and mighty 7-Eleven, then. After all, if the Lawson and Family Mart pork are delicious and cheap, what chance does 7-Eleven stand of a comeback?

Well, the king is king for a reason, and Seiji finally understands why it was a little more expensive. The meat and fat portions of the pork belly are perfectly balanced. And while the fat is delightfully chewy, the texture of the meat is amazingly succulent. With each bite, Seiji felt like he was being gently lifted to a pork paradise.

The sauce is a little thin, but it just makes the meat taste even better. A sweeping victory for the 7-Eleven kakuni!

So after fighting off all its competitors, it is the Premium Gold Pork Belly from 7-Eleven that emerges victorious, claiming its title ‘King of Convenience Store Kakuni‘. However, that’s not to say that it was an overwhelming win. All three kakuni are very much worthy of praise, and each have their own unique charm. If you’re a porky pundit like Seiji, why not give all three a taste and see if you agree with his decision?

By the way, if you’re planning to do a little taste test of your own, make sure the package is standing up when you put it in the microwave. You don’t have to open the bag before you heat it up, either; the steam from cooking gets released through a small outlet so it’s easy to open the bag after it’s microwaved.

But if you’re looking for a food so simple that you don’t even need to microwave it at all, check out our definitive ranking of convenience store ham sandwiches!

Photos © SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]