Autumn is here! It’s my favourite season in Japan and the reason is, of course, that there is just SO MUCH good food!
In the supermarkets you will find sweet and juicy kabocha [かぼちゃ] pumpkins, those oh-so-delicious yaki-imo [焼き芋] or baked sweet potatoes, lush, ripe fruits like nashi [梨] pears, ringo [りんご] or apples, kaki [柿] or persimmon and budou [ぶどう] grapes. And, who could forget kuri [栗] chestnuts, matsutake [松茸] mushrooms and the fish of autumn, sanma [秋刀魚] or Pacific saury.
Of course, you may be a little hard pressed to find ‘fresh,’ versions of these foods in konbini [コンビニ], but you can definitely find plenty of products that are inspired by or feature signature autumn ingredients.
7-Eleven always gets in early and although Family Mart has stolen his way into my affections, I have recently found myself drifting back to my tried and true 7-Eleven, which is exploding with new autumn products. Family Mart is more of a dark horse, but as Family Mart’s superior oden [おでん] is an autumn staple for me, I will keep an eye on him. Stay tuned.
But, for this week… let’s focus on 7-Eleven.
First, however, is one product that doesn’t actually contain any special autumn foods, but is flying off the shelves. You need to snap this baby up fast! Why? Because it’s so damn delicious! What am I talking about? I’m talking about the chicken nanban bento [チキン南蛮弁当].
It’s so rich that I guarantee you will struggle to finish it. It’s the mayonnaise or perhaps it’s better described as hollandaise-like sauce that does it. I pushed on though because there was NO WAY I was going to waste food and, as a result, I felt quite sick for a few hours afterwards. In a good way. TOTALLY worth it!
There is also a chicken nanban onigiri [おにぎり] or rice ball. It’s very sweet though and probably packed full of sugar. Oh well, it’s delicious too and if you can’t handle the full bento, this is a good alternative and a way to work up to the real thing.
What would autumn be without talking about fruit-inspired alcohol and the wonderful cans of chuuhai [チューハイ] or carbonated water mixed with the Japanese shochu [焼酎] liquor? Every year I get sucked in and have to try one or two. For this week, I taste-tested Kirin’s Strong Gourmet Lemon and Lime and Suntory’s Horoyoi 3% Apple flavour.
Let’s start with the Kirin, because it’s definitely one I want to get over and done with. It’s 9% alcohol and let me just say, the other 91% is pure s&*t. ‘Gourmet,’ is hardly the word to describe it. If I was to try and tell you what it tastes like, the closest I could get to an adequate explanation is that it’s like drinking methylated spirits. Yes, the type of alcohol that is and I quote from Wikipedia, “ethanol that has additives to make it poisonous, bad tasting, foul smelling or nauseating, to discourage recreational consumption.” Yep, that’s the perfect description. Why anyone would want to drink this for recreational purposes is beyond me. The only possible way I could drink this is if I was already super drunk and had no idea what I was doing. My friend suggested adding some pomegranate concentrate she had in her fridge but it was to no avail and ended up tipping it down the sink. The only place it should be.
The Suntory Horoyoi Apple, however, was light, refreshing and totally made me feel as though autumn has arrived. As my friend and I sat on her balcony overlooking the river and watching the clouds drift past, we could have been somewhere in the country drinking apple cider. It is perfect.
There are also two types of grape-flavoured cans by Asahi and the always popular, always strong, Strong Zero from Suntory. Give them a try and let me know what you think.
If you’re into sweets, there is also the delicious looking little pot of sweet potato goodness and the purple sweet potato ice cream from Häagen-Dazs.
Last year, or was it the year before… they did a pumpkin version and it was EXTRAORDINARY, so I’m guessing this is the same. It combines purple sweet potato with sweet potato paste, whipped cream and has a candied sweet potato topping. Oh, and it also includes roasted green tea. Everybody say, おいしそう！ or “Delicious!”
Happy eating and happy autumn!