This steaming hot showdown between Family Mart, Lawson and 7-Eleven produces a very surprising result.

In Japan, winter is the perfect time to enjoy a convenience store steamed bun, which is why our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun has been chowing down on so many of them lately.

After giving us his verdict on the best convenience store pizza buns, the best convenience store curry buns, and the best convenience store pork buns, P.K. decided it was time to up his game by going premium for his next tasting.

So he headed out to three of the nation’s top convenience stores — Lawson, 7-Eleven, and Family Mart — to try their premium steamed pork buns, which are priced in the 200-yen (US$1.75) range, making them around 60-70 yen more expensive than other buns in the hot display case.

▼ The step-up in price means a step-up in size, making for some very meaty morsels.

P.K.’s always been a bit of a miser when it comes to konbini pork buns, so this would be his first time tasting premium pork buns. Brimming with excitement at the prospect, P.K. decided to start his virgin journey with…

 …the 7-Eleven Large Pork Bun (213 yen [US$1.86])

P.K. recently crowned 7-Eleven as the king of regular steamed pork buns, so he was curious to see if their premium pork bun would be equally impressive. This one contained large-cut pork pieces and sweet onions all encased in a perfectly plump dough.

It was absolutely delicious, and P.K. would go so far as to call it a “Chinatown-level” bun, a marker of excellence given to only the finest buns that taste as good as the ones you’d eat in Chinatown.

▼ Definitely worth the extra price.

▼ Next up, we have Family Mart’s Kurobuta Pork Bun (198 yen)

The 7-Eleven premium pork bun set a high bar for its competitors to beat, but Family Mart had its fighting gloves on, with a bun that P.K. deemed to be equally as good. If anything, Family Mart may have had the edge here, due to its use of kurobuta (literally “black pig”), a heritage breed prized for its quality and flavour.

The large pieces of kurobuta were plump and juicy, perfectly matched by the sweetness of the onions and the plump, firm dough. Though it was slightly smaller than the premium buns from competing chains, P.K. chose to overlook that fact, seeing as the expensive meat warranted a slightly smaller size to keep it within the 200-yen range.

▼ This one also had the chops to fight it out in Chinatown.

▼ P.K.’s final stop of the day was Lawson, to try their Special Meat Bun (198 yen)

Lawson’s regular pork buns have left P.K. feeling a little disappointed in the past, so he was pleasantly surprised to find that their premium bun was surprisingly good. It contained large-cut meat, sweet onions, and a moist and smooth dough. It was unmistakably delicious, and it too reached “Chinatown level” in P.K.’s eyes, leaving him in a bit of a quandary.

All three premium pork buns were of such high standard that it was difficult for P.K. to rank them. All of them contained large-cut pork, and all of them were good. Personally, he really liked Lawson’s Special Meat Buns, but unfortunately not a lot of branches stock them. Therefore, he came to the ultimate decision of declaring this a draw.

It’s not often that this happens, as P.K. always likes to crown a winner and rank the stores in order of most to least delicious, but it was just impossible for him to do that here. The one thing that did become clear to P.K. after this tasting was the fact that all the premium pork buns at these convenience stores are clearly tastier than their regular offerings. And it’s not just the taste that’s great — the value for money is impressive as well.

So next time you scoff at the extra price for the premium buns at the convenience store display counter, you might want to bite the bullet and give them a go. You’ll be surprised by the difference in flavour, which is evident in their premium beef stews too.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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