7-Eleven’s lastest onigiri creation is our reporter’s new favourite rice ball.

Our reporter Ahiruneko is a big fan of tenmusu, a specialty from Nagoya. Tenmusu is a ball of rice wrapped in a sheet of nori (seaweed), with a deep fried tempura shrimp in the middle. While it’s technically considered an onigiri, or rice ball, it doesn’t quite feel right to call it that; it’s more like an evolved, super onigiri that makes you want to shake the hand of whoever invented it.

▼ With a blanket of nori surrounding it and the fried shrimp demurely poking out at the end… the Tenmusu is definitely not your run of the mill onigiri

But while Ahiruneko is a self-professed tenmusu-a-holic, he’s always felt like there’s an opportunity for improvement. Seeing as the tenmusu already deviates so much from your regular rice ball, why not take it even further and make it even more advanced?

As luck would have it, someone at 7-Eleven thinks in the same way that Ahiruneko does, and the convenience store recently released a rice ball called the Ebiten (shrimp tempura), rendered in English as ‘Shrimp, Sweetened Soy Sauce’. The Ebi-ten has been on sale at stores in Saitama, Chiba, Tokyo, and Kanagawa since January 24, 2023.

While it isn’t exactly the same as Ahiruneko’s beloved tenmusu — for a start, the sheet of nori doesn’t cover the whole rice ball — there was a particular element that caught our reporter’s attention —

▼ Not one, not two, but three tempura shrimps!

Yes, 7-Eleven’s new Ebiten comes with three whole tempura shrimp attached. “Just who on earth would be crazy enough to come up with such a magical modification?” Ahiruneko mused, before deciding it was probably someone who was as crazy about tenmusu as he was. They probably had a secret underground codename, like the Mad Shrimp Scientist.

Like some sort of rice-based Frankenstein, the creator of this Ebiten had removed the shrimp, usually found on the inside of the rice ball, and stuck it on the outer layer. The exposed shrimp was kept attached to the rice ball via a thin layer of nori, like some sort of edible band-aid. It was a tenmusu, but at the same time it wasn’t.

But on top of the unusual arrangement of the onigiri was the addition of a delicious sauce that the tempura was coated in. It was a thick, sweet sauce that you could never tire of no matter how much you ate.

There was also some shiso (perilla mint leaves, a.k.a. Japanese basil) hidden underneath everything, but Ahiruneko’s attention was so taken up by the sheer volume of shrimp included in this rice ball that he didn’t really have anything in particular to say about the leaves. They were probably a nice accent to the shrimp.

Sure, if you’re looking for an orthodox tenmusu like the ones they make in Nagoya, you can probably get a more authentic one at a fancy supermarket or something, but that’s not what Ahiruneko was looking for. To him, this Ebiten was the perfect arrangement of shrimp tempura and rice. He had absolutely nothing negative to say about the Ebiten’s taste, except for…

▼ … the price!

The Ebiten costs a whopping 324 yen (US$2.49) which, when you consider that regular onigiri at convenience stores usually cost around 150 yen, seems almost a ridiculous amount to pay for a single rice ball.

Still, even over a traditional tenmusu, Ahiruneko would rather eat an Ebiten. The power of the extra tempura shrimp can’t be underestimated, clearly.

Photos © SoraNews24
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