Discover the delights of the conbini, or Japanese convenience store

Conbini (Japanese convenience stores) are much more than a ubiquitous repository of junk food and cheap buzzes. They sell everything from sushi and soba, manga and medicine, single-malt whisky and next-day hangover cures. Here are five of our favourite conbini food buys.

Red basket cart pushed by a woman in the freezer section of a convenience store.
  • Matt Goulding
    Edited extract from Rice Noodle Fish, published by Hardie Grant Books. RRP $45
  • May 2018

1. Karaage

Fried food has a strong presence in conbini, but chicken - spicy nuggets, patties, thighs, and drumsticks - is the standout. Karaage is salty, unreasonably juicy, and as delicious cold as it is hot.

Karaage bento
Japanese Karaage (fried chicken) Bento box

2. Oden

Come winter, oden dominates the conbini landscape: vegetables, meat, tofu, and eggs simmered gently in dashi. The Japanese go crazy for this stuff, and when you feel the chill in your bones, you will too.

Oden hot-pot dishes
Oden gently simmering in Dashi in a Japenese convenience store

3. Yogashi

Pillow soft and lightly sweetened, yogashi (Western style desserts) make for a heroic breakfast or late-night binge (try anything made with green tea).

4. Iced Coffee

Nearly as ubiquitous as vending machine coffee, and marginally better. It tends to be super sweet, so look for ones with “double” or “espresso” in the name, or custom blend your own hot or cold caffeine fix with the slick coffee machines found at all the big conbini these days.

5. Sandos

The math doesn’t work out - squishy bread, industrial fillings - but what emerges out of those plastic wrappers is glorious. Egg sandwiches from 7-Eleven and Lawson stores are little miracles of creamy golden yolks and umami-rich kewpie mayonnaise.