The GOAT Gets GOATier
40% more Famichiki comes to FamilyMart
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Sushi. Ramen. Soba. There is no shortage of iconic Japanese foods known throughout the world. But there is one that goes overlooked: the conbini’s boneless fried chicken.
And there is one that towers above all the others: FamilyMart’s Famichiki.
What more can you say about Famichiki? It’s the GOAT of conbini items. It’s a two-time Conbini Tournament champion. Following its release in 2000, every conbini released its own version: 7-11 launched the nana-chiki, Lawson created the L-chiki, and Ministop started the Juicy Chicken.
It took me four years to try a Famichiki. Internalized trauma from US 7-11 hot box taquitos and rolling wieners kept me from purchasing one. Then I found out my Conbini Boys partner Mike had a two-a-day habit. When I revealed I had never tried one, he was aghast. Determined to overcome the mental hurdle, I pulled into my local FamilyMart in my Daihatsu Mira, stepped into the shop and saddled up to the counter: “One Famichiki, please.” I took a seat back in my car, unfurled the legend, and took a bite. God as my witness, juice sprayed out of the chicken and covered my glasses. My mouth bathed in the salty essence of chicken and my vision blurred, for a moment I thought, “Is that you, God?”
My life would never be the same.
The typical R&D cycle begins with the question, “What is possible in nature?” Then engineers figure out how to develop innovative products that satisfy customer needs. FamilyMart engineers must begin with a very different question: “What is impossible in nature?” Then they work to make it possible to satisfy customer cravings.
The Famichiki is a slap in the face to the natural world. No chicken is ever born and raised to be so juicy. There is no Galapagos Island of bloated chickens whose crux of existence for millennia was juice. That wave of hot, salty grease that splashes onto your tongue when your incisors pierce a Famichiki’s fried crust is the work of man defeating the natural order. With every sale FamilyMart engineers glare down at a savagely beaten Charles Darwin while some Wizard of Oz beams through a megaphone, “FATALITY!”
And now, for a limited time, they’re making it 40% bigger.
Can there ever be too much of a good thing? In this case, no. Purchase with abandon! March to your local FamilyMart. If you live in Tokyo, march to all three that are within two hundred yards of your apartment! This is a jubilee!
As you bite into that perfectly seasoned water balloon, give way to its gush. Let your eyes roll into the back of your head and your brain wash in dopamine. Text your boss, “I’m not coming back.” Call your spouse, “I’m not coming home.” Hang back and wait for that next fat batch to come sizzling out of the fryer and saddle up to the counter with your point card to buy one or two more. This is as good as life is ever going to get. And it’s not because the rest of life isn’t any good. It’s because a 40% bigger Famichicki is so damn great.
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Item of the Week
It’s become popular for the conbini to partner with well-known restaurants and chefs to deliver new, outstanding products. This all began with cup noodle in the 2000s when 7-11 started collaborating with famous ramen joints to create instant versions of the fresh stuff served in shops. Even Tomita Ramen, which has been rated Tokyo’s best ramen shop – and featured in the excellent documentary, Ramen Heads – has collaborated on instant noodles for the conbini.
Lawson has partnered with a high-end Japanese restaurant called Nasubitei to create simmered pork belly in a bag. Called “kakuni” in Japanese, this is a popular dish, especially at izakaya. Pork belly is slowly simmered in water seasoned with soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar, and aromatics like leeks until fall-apart tender.
What’s special about this collaboration is Nasubitei is no ramen shop. It’s a high-end restaurant where dinner starts at 8,000 yen (about $70) per person and goes all the way up to 15,000 yen (about $130) for the suppon-nabe course dinner, also known as turtle soup, a common meal in top-notch Japanese restaurants. The homepage features a raw lobster, likely still twitching, with its raw meat sitting on its upside-down tail. Tabelog, the Japanese version of Yelp, rates it 3.5/5, which is a terrific score by raters who are nearly impossible to satisfy, even Tomita hasn’t cracked 4 with a score of 3.9.
For under 500 yen ($4) anyone can get a taste of the good life at Lawson. Pair it with a bowl of rice and a few glasses of sake. That is a great meal.
From the Dumpster
While the Famichiki is a juicy revelation, not all conbini snacks are as universally loved, such as the polarizing chitara. It’s well known as an abomination, just thin strips of salted cod wrapped in cheese. You find them in the jerky section, which has a depressing number of chitara options. The latest version represents another awakening of the pizza-flavor chip. Salted cod, cheese, and pizza essence packaged into a strip of edible rubber. How many Asahi Super Drys would one need before this starts looking good? Hopefully, we never find out.
Concerning the pizza-flavor potato chip, its last appearance saw it reborn as actual pizza – the pizza-flavor-potato-chip-flavor pizza. Like the Holy Trinity whereby God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit are reconciled by the church’s clearing account into a single deity, the pizza-flavor-potato-chip-flavor pizza is three essences of pizza transformed into one. I’ve kept open its possible origins from divine to natural, reading scripture and watching Neil Degrasse Tyson YouTube videos on parallel universes to try to understand its origin. I’ve been unsuccessful.
Hot juicy chicken
Heaven’s gates have opened up
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