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 and chips, from the Seven-Eleven convenience store.
For Brits living in Japan, finding '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 maybe I'll try that tonight!', and you end up disappointed. Or if it's good, you're going to pay through the nose.
First, the fish. Some places have the whole chunk for you to cut up, other serve what looks more like fish nuggets. Okay, whichever works. What kind of fish is it? No idea. If it is, in fact, a 'proper' fish like cod or haddock, get ready to cry when you hand over the cash. There's an 'authentic' place in central Tokyo that charges the equivalent of close to £10-15 per portion.
Not that it matters - the chips are always the bigger problem.
To someone like me, chip shop 'chips' have a certain shape, texture and softness it's impossible to recreate. Fish and chips from 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 Hub, that British pub chain, or an izakaya, or wherever, and the plate that gets puts 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 example in this post is also 'fish and wedges'. Damn.
When it comes to conbini chains, they each win at something different. People tend to like Family Mart better for fried chicken, and Lawson's got desserts they sold over a million of within 3 days.
Seven-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 a foreign card at Seven-Eleven's cash machines and not be charged a transaction fee. (By the machine, anyways, your bank might beg to differ.) Thought that might be useful for anyone planning a trip to Japan soon.
And now Seven-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 a bit bland. The batter on them is more like 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. I got a lot of 'aha' looks for eating this, so I told those people as much. Maybe they'll still try this, but 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.