Japan is renowned for the quality of its sweet treats, from the nation’s own original wagashi to Western desserts such as parfaits and crepes, which often outdo their Western counterparts. Convenience stores are no exception—you will find delicious desserts at affordable prices at any 7-Eleven, Lawson, or FamilyMart. Today, we will introduce three standard sweets you will find at the convenience stores, which are cream puffs, pudding, and jelly, and the different varieties by store. Those with a sweet tooth, read on!
Cream puffs are pastry balls typically filled with custard, whipped cream, or ice cream, are called shu-cream in Japanese, which ends up sounding like something you might polish a shoe with. It comes from the French chou a la creme, or cream puff, making the word a blend of French and English (chou cream). While the name is unfortunate in English, these cream puffs themselves will never disappoint you! Here are the different cream puffs by convenience stores and their characteristics.
7-Eleven: The Seven Shu
This custard-filled cream puff is particular rich and hearty, using something called “egg royale” for its custard, which is especially yellow and egg-y. They do not skimp on the custard, either, making this cream puff quite a mouthful. The pastry part is buttery and soft, but thick enough to satisfy even those who prefer a chewier pastry. And despite how filling it is, it costs just ¥130, making for a very reasonable sweet treat.
FamilyMart: Big Custard & Whipped Cream Shu
Wrapped in a rather thick yet soft pastry, this cream puff is filled with about half custard and half whipped cream, meaning you can enjoy two different flavors in one product! The pastry itself is very fragrant and tasty with just enough crunch to satisfy. It is also rather filling, despite costing only about ¥130. This is the perfect cream puff for those who like a little variety!
Lawson: Custard Shu-Cream
For those who prefer a crunchier cream puff comes Lawson’s Custard Shu-Cream from their renowned Uchi Café Sweets line. The secret ingredient in the custard is clover honey, which goes perfectly with the crunchy yet soft pastry dough encompassing it. When it comes to classics like the cream puff, simple is best, and Lawson’s cream puff is perfectly simple. It is, however, on the smaller side, which makes it ideal for those who just want a little something sweet but might leave those with bigger appetites wanting more. That said, it is only ¥105, so if one just isn’t enough, you can always buy another one!
Pudding is called purin in Japan, based on a mishearing of the English word “pudding”, and while pudding encompasses a rather wide variety of products in the English-speaking world, from the vanilla and chocolate pudding cups so popular in America to the English breakfast standard of black pudding made from congealed pig’s blood, purin in Japanese almost invariably means one thing—custard pudding, also called crème caramel or flan. Convenience stores sell their own original puddings as well as puddings made by other manufacturers. Here, we’ll introduce some of the bests.
7-Eleven’s Torokeru Cream Purin and Custard Purin
From 7-Eleven’s Premium line comes Torokeru Cream Purin, which, unlike other puddings, has a layer of whipped cream on top. This creates a smooth, “melting” texture (torokeru mean “melting” in Japanese). This pudding is fairly sweet, so it is recommended for those with a sweet tooth. For those who prefer something creamy rather than sweet, 7-Eleven also offers Custard Pudding Gutto Tamago, a thick, custard pudding that goes easy on the sugar and heavy on the egg, with a fairly strong hint of vanilla.
FamilyMart’s Torori Purin and Kamayaki Torokeru Purin
FamilyMart offers several kinds of puddings, one of which is the Torori Purin, or “thick pudding”. Like its name implies, this pudding is thick. Made with fresh cream from Hokkaido, it is also especially creamy, and at just ¥148, it is very affordable. FamilyMart also has Kamayaki Torokeru Purin (Kiln-Baked Melting Pudding). This pudding is sweeter than Torori Purin, and so those with a sweet tooth may want to try this one.
Lawson’s Tamago to Miruku no Nameraka Purin (Smooth Egg and Milk Pudding)
Once again, Lawson’s Uchi Café line of sweets delivers genuine flavor with this tasty pudding. This pudding is on the firm side, its rich custard flavor containing a hint of vanilla. For those concerned about health, this pudding is made with only four ingredients—milk, eggs, sugar, and vanilla flavoring—making it safe for those sensitive to dyes and preservatives. It costs a reasonable ¥195 and goes great with a cup of coffee.
Mini Stop’s Mugen Purin (Infinity Pudding)
The copy translates to “So good you can eat it infinitely!”, which one man attempted to do. However, at roughly 1.5 times the size of regular pudding and with its rich custard flavor and rather firm texture, one cup should be enough to satisfy (indeed, the man who tried to eat this pudding infinitely stopped after two). This one also contains just five ingredients, meaning no food dyes or preservatives. Since it is so big, it costs a little more than the other puddings at ¥325.
When the Japanese speak of “jelly”, they do not mean the jam you would spread on toast (as in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich) but rather the traditional gelatin-based dessert (think Jell-O). These jellies come in a variety of flavors and are not only delicious, but the gelatin does wonders for skin, hair, and nails! Here, we’ll introduce some of the jellies you can buy at convenience stores in Japan.
The most common kind of jelly in a cup you will find in convenience stores is fruit-flavored jelly. These are not only delicious but often contain actual chunks of fruit, making them visually pleasing as well. Take, for example, FamilyMart’s Gradation series, which features beautiful gradated colors in flavor combinations such as Jelly Orange and Blood Orange, or the more surprising combination of Peach and Cheeseball. Every convenience store has mikan (Japanese tangerine) jelly, perhaps the most popular flavor, as well as flavors such as grape and peach.
With the spread of Starbucks and similar cafes, coffee has become a widespread phenomenon in Japan, and coffee-flavored jelly is now a standard dessert item. Any convenience store will have coffee jelly. For example, Horoniga Coffee Jelly from Megmilk, available at Lawson, 7-Eleven, and other stores, is a delicious bittersweet coffee jelly with a creamy milk sauce. The individual stores have their own takes on coffee jelly, such as FamilyMart’s Tiramisu and Coffee Jelly and 7-Eleven’s Mousse Coffee Jelly, both around ¥200.
Unlike the standard jellies, vitamin jellies come in little pouches, rendering spoons unnecessary and making them perfect for someone on the go. Step into any convenience store and you are bound to come across the IN series of vitamin jellies from Morinaga: Energy IN, Vitamin IN, Mineral IN, Protein IN, and more. Pocari Sweat also makes its famous hydrating sports drink in jelly form. Minute Maid also makes pouch jellies in a variety of fruit flavors such as banana, mango, and apple, aimed at being a morning meal replacement. These jellies not only taste good but are loaded with vitamins, making them perfect for when you are feeling run down after a long flight.
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So next time you are in Japan and craving a little something sweet, stop by a convenience store and find yourself the perfect treat!