There is/used to be an interesting blog called "Konbini Life". You'll have to excuse my verb tense confusion because the blog is still there, but it is updated so infrequently that I'm not sure there's much life in Konbini Life these days. (Note: it was gone by the time I published this review, but was still there when I wrote it.) For those who don't know, "konbini" is what the Japanese call convenience stores like 7-11. I always loved the concept behind the blog because convenience stores are such a big part of urban life here. Many people augment their lunches, procure snacks in the midst of the workday, or outright buy meals at convenience stores. It's also where novelties and short-lived products go first so the sampling from such stores is always interesting.
Unfortunately, I believe Konbini Life's writer has succumbed to the what I call The Japan Times blog roll (sometimes slow) death sentence. It seems that easily one-third of the blogs featured on it start to seriously wither or die outright shortly after they show up on the list. Konbini Life has been removed from their technology main page list, but they were featured at one time (and the article about them is still there in the archives).
What does this have to do with Lawson VL (Value Line) chicken rice? Well, I think this type of product is exactly the type of thing which would be good to feature on Konbini Life or the venerable U.S. blog, Heat Eat Review. It's actually not a snack, but it's my blog and I'll feature the occasional frozen food or convenience food item if I want to. Fortunately, I rarely eat these types of things so they won't be showing up often and my body will be largely spared from frequent consumption of processed food.
This 180-gram (6.3 oz.) packet of frozen flavored rice was available in the small freezer section of Lawson 100, a cheap convenience store. I was having a busy day and had a little leftover chicken in the refrigerator and was too harried to mess around figuring out something to do with it, and not in the mood to just use the plain rice I have on hand. Note that I wouldn't choose to eat a packet of this "chicken rice" without extra chicken on hand as I know there won't be much meat in it. The picture above shows the frozen contents with the only identifiable nuggets of chicken circled.
I would never recommend anyone buy this and eat it as is as a meal since there is certainly not enough protein in it by itself. If you see identifiable bits of chicken in the pictures, they are my leftovers and not from the original product.
The front of the package says that this rice is flavored with tomato, ketchup, and chicken. Though I'm not a huge fan of ketchup (I never buy it or use it as a condiment), I don't dislike it as long as it's cooked into something and the flavor is diluted.
After being cooked up and stirred around, the orangish oily coating stains the added chicken and it glistens enticingly.
Unsurprisingly, this smelled like ketchup. You can see by the color that there is a noticeable tomato influence. The ingredients list includes tomato paste, ketchup, onion, green peas, soy sauce, paprika, and onion extract. You can see lots of little bits of onion in it and about 8 peas. Interestingly, this is almost exactly as many peas are pictured on the front of the package. I wonder if someone was counting them.
Without my added chicken, this was not bad at all. It has that frozen food taste which seems to come along with such types of foods (their equivalent of new car smell, I'm guessing), but also has a tomato paste/ketchup flavor coupled with onion, garlic, and nicely savory but not too salty seasoning. Some of the subdued savoriness likely comes from soy sauce. With my chicken added, this was actually pretty serviceable as a small meal as the chicken adds heft, protein, and a better flavor and texture balance.
It was a little greasy, but it had good firm rice and the peas were firm and turned a bright green after I heated this for about two and a half minutes in the microwave. You can't really taste the onion as an individual part of the meal, but the peas are relatively flavorful when you get one in a bite.
There were 311 calories in this and I imagine that the whole meal came in under 350 calories with my chicken breast slices added in and I felt quite full. Note that I had this with a big glass of iced milk tea, but I think that the added fat (which made it a bit greasy) probably helps one feel sated even with a smallish, carb-intense meal like this. I will also mention that about an hour and a half later, this gave me heartburn, but that's probably from the acid in the tomato paste and ketchup.
I'd certainly buy this again under similar circumstances, but I wouldn't go out of my way to eat it often, nor will I likely develop a craving for it. It made for a nice change of pace and a more flavorful pairing to my chicken than homemade rice from my freezer. It was also exceptionally cheap for a lunch given that the chicken portion probably cost about 33 yen (it was only about 1/4 of a breast) and the rice was 99 yen. However, it's not exactly the best balance without more vegetables or some fruit on the side.