A surprising new-and-improved contender from Lawson might just steal your heart this year.

Our reporter Seiji Nakazawa loves convenience store rice balls. Amongst them, his most favourite is the salted rice ball, which some might say is the hardest to do well, as it contains no fillings to hide behind, consisting only of rice and salt.

Back in January last year, Seiji compared the salted rice balls at Japan’s top convenience store chains — Lawson, Family Mart and 7-Eleven — and declared 7-Eleven’s to be the best. However, Seiji recently noticed that the salted rice balls from Lawson and 7-Eleven had changed their packaging, prompting him to wonder if that meant they now tasted different too.

▼ Last year’s rice balls, from left to right: Family Mart, Lawson, 7-Eleven

▼ This year’s rice balls, from left to right: Family Mart, 7-Eleven, Lawson

There was only one thing to do — conduct another taste test, to determine which chain currently sells the best salted rice balls.

▼ So he began by tasting his most beloved rice ball, from 7-Eleven.

Taking a bite out of this one, Seiji breathed a sigh of relief to find that it tasted unchanged. The moulding was nicely done, allowing for the grains of rice to retain their plump consistency, while the salt was perfectly distributed throughout. It was the taste that Seiji loved, making this a hard onigiri to beat.

▼ Next up is the Lawson rice ball.

The words “plump mouthfeel” on the bottom of the packaging immediately caught his eye, giving Seiji the sense that this might be a real contender to break up his love affair with the 7-Eleven rice ball.

▼ It certainly looked nice and plump on the outside.

▼ Taking a bite out of it, the plumpness really stood out, causing Seiji to stop and take it all in.

The degree of plumpness was significantly higher than the 7-Eleven rice ball. It was airy and moist, yet managed to retain the shape of each grain, showing a degree of excellence that took Seiji by surprise. The sweetness of the rice shone through, and although the salty seasoning wasn’t as good as 7-Eleven’s, the rice was far superior.

▼ Finally, the Family Mart rice ball.

No changes here, as this was exactly the same as he’d remembered. Out of the three, the rice in this onigiri was definitely the firmest, which made Seiji think Family Mart customers must like firm rice. The salt here tasted the most natural, in that it didn’t stand out, but it just wasn’t the one for Seiji.

▼ The 7-Eleven and Family Mart rice balls (top and left below, respectively) are both priced at 105 yen (US$0.75), while the Lawson rice ball is priced at 113 yen.

In the end, Seiji found himself torn between his beloved 7-Eleven rice ball and the new improved version from Lawson, which tasted much better than last year. The improvement was so dramatic that although Seiji ‘s heart remained loyal to the 7-Eleven onigiri, he knew deep down that he would inevitably end up taking the Lawson onigiri back to his place when he had the money to splurge on it.

For Seiji, though, the Family Mart onigiri is out of the love triangle for now. But who knows, if it can work on its plumpness, he might give it another chance next year!

Photos ©SoraNews24
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