McDonald’s and KFC Japan, plus a few others, give us multiple ways to eat the moon this autumn.

Japan loves seasonal foods, and fall is a time of culinary delights for lovers of sweet potatoes, chestnuts, and lotus root, as all three reach their peak of deliciousness. Oh, and autumn is also the season for a special type of hamburger, called the tsukimi burger.

Tsukimi is the Japanese word for “moon-viewing,” and for centuries people in Japan have enjoyed admiring our lunar neighbor, with the full moon in September traditionally held to be the most beautiful of the year. Of course, those that think with their stomachs can’t help but notice that the round moon looks a lot like a really tasty egg, which led to the creation of “tsukimi soba” and “tsukimi udon,” noodles with egg, and, in the modern era, tsukimi burgers, hamburgers with a melty sunny side up egg.

McDonald’s Japan is credited with kicking off the tsukimi burger craze when it added the seasonal sandwich to its menu in the early ‘90s, but several of its fast food rivals, including KFC, have now joined the competition for the tsukimi burger throne. With this year’s offerings just showing up in Japan, we thought it was time for them to show up in our mouths too, and so we gathered five of this year’s most enticing contenders to find Japan’s best fast food moon-viewing burger.

1. McDonald’s Noko Fuwatoro Tsukimi (390 yen [US$3.70])

Translating to “Rich, Fluffy, Melty Moon-Viewing,” the name is a bit of a mouthful, but it’s necessary to distinguish it from McDonald’s ordinary tsukimi burger, which is also currently available. This powered-up version has the egg, aurora (creamy tomato garlic) sauce, ad smoked bacon of the chain’s standard tsukimi, but adds a scramble egg filling that’s mixed in with the meat of the patty.

As soon as we took a bite, we learned that the scrambled egg makes a big difference in two ways. First, because it’s at the bottom of the sandwich, not the top, it’s the first thing that hits your taste buds after you bite through the bed, giving you instant eggy goodness. Also, having two different types of egg keeps them at the forefront of the flavor profile throughout the entire mouthful. The flavors of beef, bacon, and cheese are all still there, but they play a supporting role to what really makes a tsukimi burger a tsukimi burger.

2. KFC’s Torori Tsukimi Chicken Filet (460 yen)

The “Melty Tsukimi Chicken Filet,” naturally, shuns beef in favor of KFC’s marque meat. With chicken having a milder flavor than beef or pork, we were a little worried that we wouldn’t get anything but egg in the flavor profile, but those fears proved unnecessary. This is the Colonel’s chicken we’re talking about here, so those famous herbs and spices, particularly a peppery kick, still came shining through.

The Torori Tsukimi Chicken Filet was also the most beautiful of the bunch in its post-bite photo op, with the egg beautifully prepared to what Japan calls the hanjuku (half-cooked) consistency, allowing it to slowly cascade into the rest of the sandwich as we ate it.

3. KFC’s Torori Tsukimi Wafu Chicken Katsu (460 yen)

Sorry – we were in such a feeding frenzy at this point that we forgot to take a picture of the wrapper before we dug in.

Since KFC was tempting us with two new tsukimi items, we doubled down and also picked up a “Melty Moon-Viewing Japanese-Style Chicken Cutlet” sandwich, with the presence of teriyaki sauce and shredded cabbage, the traditional accompaniment to Japanese cutlets, being what qualifies it as “Japanese-style.”

There’s a momentary crisp resistance as you bite into the fried chicken’s breading, but that gives way to juicy meat that’s actually even more tender than KFC’s Tsukimi Chicken Filet. Everything only gets better when the meat juices mingle with the teriyaki sauce and fried egg as they ooze into one another.

4. Lotteria’s Hanjuku Tsukimi Classic Burger Jr. (490 yen)

“Wait, ‘junior?!?’we hear you asking. “You’ve changed, SoraNews24! You used to be all about the gluttony!”

Rest assured that we’re still the same shameless big eaters we’ve always been. It’s just that Lotteria’s “junior” tsukimi is pretty much the same size and price as its rivals standard-size burgers (Lotteria’s much bigger non-junior tsukimi is 780 yen), so we’re using the Hanjuku Tsukimi Classic Burger Jr. as the representative for this competition.

▼ You might think that’s harsh, but sorry, Junior, life isn’t always fair.

The key distinction here is that the Hanjuku Tsukimi Classic Burger Jr. has sliced tomato and onion, giving it a vegetable-fresh vibe. The buns are great too, with a stronger flavor presence than the other sandwiches in this taste test, and the patty gave it a nice meaty taste too. It’s a burger where all of the individual ingredients really stand out on their own.

5. First Kitchen’s Bacon Egg Burger (360 yen)

Our last entry is here thanks to a little fudging of the rules. See, while all tsukimi burgers are egg burgers, not all egg burgers are tsukimi burgers. Like we said at the beginning of this article, the original tsukimi food was tsukimi soba/udon, which is made by cracking a raw egg into a bowl of noodles and letting the heat of the broth slightly cook it as it mixes into the liquid. By that same token, the egg in a tsukimi burger is supposed to be melty, but the one in First Kitchen’s Egg Burger isn’t.

Still, we saw a way to stick one more burger on our expense account, and when life presents you with an opportunity to make your boss buy you a sandwich, you take it. Plus, while the tsukimi burgers on this list are limited-time offers, First Kitchen’s Bacon Egg Burger is a permanent part of its menu. It does its job nicely too, with the salty bacon, toasted buns, and unique use of tartar sauce giving it its own special appeal, and since you can get it rear-round, it’s a nice substitute in other seasons for those suffering from tsukimi burger withdrawal.

OK, so now that we’ve eaten all five sandwiches, which is the best? Well, that depends on how you define best. If you’ve just got a general burger craving, Lotteria’s Hanjuku Tsukimi Classic Burger Jr. is hard to beat. If your soul is crying out for “MEAT!”, we’d recommend either of the KFC offerings.

But if you’re in the mood for a tsukimi burger, nothing can replace the allure of egg itself, and for that reason, McDonald’s Noko Fuwatoro Tsukimi is our pick. Not that we’d turn down any of the options on this list, but the innovative double-egg design is too delicious for us to resist, and we plan on eating several more while looking up at the night sky under the pretense of participating in high-class autumn culture.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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