Lawson, Family Mart, 7-Eleven and Mini Stop are all in the running for the top spot.  

This winter, we’ve been visiting the country’s top convenience store chains, comparing some of their food offerings against each other to see which one is worth your money. This week, our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun decided it was time to retry some pizza buns, in a call-back to his taste-test showdown of 2018, when he gave his verdict on the best convenience store Pizza Man, which is what pizza-flavoured manju (steamed buns) are called in Japan.

Back then, Family Mart won top spot in the tasting, but P.K. figured a lot could’ve changed in the three years since, so he headed out to feast on Pizza Man again, stopping by the same four convenience store chains as last time.

The most important control in P.K.’s verification system was to eat each steamed bun immediately after purchasing it, as they’re known to lose their deliciousness otherwise. Eating them at their optimal temperature meant he’d be testing them outside each store, so he made sure he dressed appropriately for the cold weather.

So…let’s get right to it and find out what P.K. thought of each pizza bun, starting with…

Lawson’s Pizza Bun with Melty Cheese (140 yen [US$1.23])

The amount of cheese was quite satisfying here, but the sauce was ho-hum. At best, this was a standard pizza bun that P.K. would slot in the ‘average‘ category. However, the overpowering presence of melty cheese would definitely appeal to ardent cheese lovers.

▼ Next up, we have Mini Stop’s Melty Steamed 4-Cheese Pizza Bun (140 yen)

This bun contained the smallest amount of cheese out of all four offerings, but the sauce was quite unique. There was a clear flavour of basil that shone through in the sauce, which surprised P.K. as he really wasn’t expecting much from this one. He really liked it, and it made him realise that he hadn’t tried a pizza bun with such a strong basil flavour before.

The basil was so flavoursome they could get away with calling this a “Basil-flavoured pizza bun“.

Next to enter the ring is 7-Eleven’s Springy x Melty Pizza Bun (140 yen)

The amount of cheese in this one is impressive, but P.K. felt the sauce was a little lacking in excitement. It was just your standard pizza sauce, which is good for appealing to a wide range of palates in the mass market, but P.K. would’ve liked a little more accent in flavour to elevate it from ‘good’ to ‘excellent’.

And finally, we have Family Mart’s Rich Pizza Bun with Melty Cheese (130 yen).

P.K. was just about to give the victory to Mini Stop for their basil-heavy pizza man, but when he bit into the one from Family Mart, he knew that this one was the clear winner.

Congratulations, Family Mart!

Family Mart’s bun went further than Mini Stop’s in terms of flavour, with a freshness and richness in the sauce that none of the other buns came close to displaying. The amount of sauce and cheese was perfectly matched too, and the light springiness of the bun was also fantastic, creating an all-round flavour sensation that seemed even better than the version they had on sale in 2018.

All the chains appeared to have tweaked their buns slightly in an attempt to improve upon flavour since P.K. last tried them, which shows it’s worth revisiting taste tests as the results aren’t set in stone forever.

And with his belly full of sauce and cheese, P.K. was glad he could re-evaluate the nation’s pizza man, especially after Mr Sato recently left him with his mouth watering when he got to judge the best convenience store margherita!

Photos ©SoraNews24
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