Aji WOW: convenience store fish & chips
Aji WOW is my series of unusual Japanese food/drink reviews. 'Aji' (味) means 'flavour', and the name's also a pun on 'ajiwau' (味わう) - 'to enjoy the taste of'.
This time: fish & chips in a microwave bag, from the 7-Eleven convenience store.
For Brits living in Japan, finding a version of 'fish and chips' that makes the grade is a serious problem. You don't even need to feel homesick or nostalgic at the time - you see some, you go 'oh hey, maybe I'll try that tonight!', and you end up disappointed. Or if you luck out and it's good, you're going to pay through the nose.
First, the fish. Some places drop the whole chunk on the plate for you to cut up, others serve what looks more like fish nuggets. Okay, their serving style is their business. What kind of fish is it under that batter? No idea.
If it is, in fact, a 'proper' fish like cod or haddock, get ready to cry when you hand over your cash. There's an 'authentic' chip shop in central Tokyo that charges the equivalent of close to £10-15 per portion.
Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things - the chips are always the bigger problem.
To someone like me, chip shop 'chips' have a certain shape, texture and softness. Anywhere that's not a chippy can't compete by default. But it's like Japan was given a different recipe book, or had to Google translate the instructions, or something.
Try a 'British pub' chain, or an izakaya, or wherever, place that order, and the plate that gets put down in front of you is 99% certain to have potato wedges sitting on it. I know how picky this sounds, but those aren't chips. And it's not 'fish and chips' if they're not chips.
The 'fish and chips' I'm reviewing in this post also turned out to be 'fish and wedges' when I opened the bag. Damn.
When it comes to conbini chains, they each win at something different. People tend to like Family Mart better for Famichiki fried chicken, and Lawson's got desserts they sold over a million of within 3 days (like the epic Baschee Basque cheesecake).
7-Eleven? In summer, it's their iced latte cups for sure. Outside of that... rice balls, maybe? Pizza-flavoured steamed buns? I'll have to keep thinking about it.
You can also take cash out with certain foreign credit-debit cards at 7-Eleven's cash machines and not be charged a transaction fee. (By the machine, anyway, your bank might beg to differ.) Thought that might be a useful tip for anyone planning a trip to Japan soon.
And now 7-Eleven is, so far, the first convenience store I've seen trying to shift mini microwaveable packs of fish and chips. I had to give them a try.
For anyone who isn't good with Japanese, the tape holding the packet of tartar sauce says you should take both off before you microwave the bag. Here's what it looked like after saucing:
The fish is... passable. A bit chewy. Better with the sauce, as the flavour comes out bland. I still can't tell you which fish this was, and I may never find out. The batter is like a softer fried chicken coating, but not as seasoned.
The not-chips were seasoned well enough in comparison, didn't go too soggy in the microwave, and tasted fine. I think I would've preferred ketchup with those.
It isn't going to satisfy anyone's longing for the stuff they used to eat back home. I got a lot of 'aha British person eating British food' looks for eating this, so I made sure to explain as much. Maybe people will still try this - at least they know they're not getting the 'real' experience when they do.
Verdict: 7/10. What else can I give Seven-Eleven but a 7 this time? It was alright, but I really hope they don't try and branch out into a separate chain of chip shops.