Bento ingredients taste different when they’re eaten with one hand.

Japanese convenience stores are great places to pick up an onigiri rice ball, but you’ll need some extra muscle to pick up the newest one at Lawson, which crams an entire bento inside it.

Released on 2 April, the “Whole Mentai Noriben” contains all the same ingredients as a nori bento, more commonly known as “nori ben“, with a layer of mentaiko (spicy pollock roe) for extra flavour.

The noriben ingredients — tartar sauce, okaka gohan (rice with bonito flake seasoning) fried white fish, fried chikuwa (Japanese fishcake), rolled omelette, and nori seaweed — are pointed out on the packaging.

Priced at 322 yen (US$2.10), this onigiri is slightly more pricey than your regular rice ball, but once it’s out of the packaging, the sheer size of it indicates that it’s worth the extra money.

The instructions on the package state this is a meal that tastes better when heated, so we microwaved ours at 500 watts for 45 seconds.

The rice ball kept its shape throughout, and what’s more, it looked exactly as it did in the photos for it, with each ingredient perfectly placed in its designated position.

Peering inside for a better look, we could see the rice was well seasoned with bonito flakes beside the fried fish, while the mentaiko was partnered with the fish cake and omelette. From this point of view, it looked more like a bento than a rice ball, earning full points for presentation.

According to Lawson’s official website, this product was designed with “taipa” (“time performance“) in mind, meaning that it aims to provide a high level of satisfaction in a short amount of time. It certainly looked like it would be faster to eat than a noriben, and when we folded it back together, we felt as if we might be able to stuff the whole thing into our mouth if we were really pressed for time.

It felt odd yet exhilarating to hold an entire bento in one hand like a sandwich, and when we took a bite out of it, our taste buds were hit with a variety of textures and flavours. First, there was the crunch of the fried fish, accompanied by the tart tartar sauce, followed by the soft fishcake and mentaiko, and the slightly sweet omelette, which created a cascade of bento flavours in one mouthful.

The rice seasoning packed less of a punch than expected, but the mentaiko and tartar sauce really stimulated the taste buds, and the whole thing was insanely delicious.

Rather than being a harmonious pairing, it was a chaotic one, with every ingredient fighting for attention in a way they don’t usually when eaten as a bento. However, this dissonance worked beautifully to keep the palate entertained all the way through to the very last bite.

▼ It was like every mouthful was a flavour bomb filled with surprising explosives.

By condensing a bento into a rice ball, the flavours seemed even more intense than usual, but if you prefer lighter flavours, you can always try the new “Pork Egg (Sea Chicken Mayonnaise)” variety.

▼ The rice balls catch the eye with their eyes.

So next time you’re at Lawson keep an eye out for the new rice balls — they’re tasty, filling, and a lot more exciting than the Lawson 100 Wiener Onigiri we tried two years earlier!

Related: Lawson
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