As the price of living becomes ever so slightly out of control, the good folk of Tokyo have become used to getting a bang for their buck (or yen in this case). Food hacks aren’t a new concept, but the Japanese and foreign communities in our fair city have become particularly savvy when it comes to konbini combos and the creation of “exotic drinks.” Some of these hacks are well ingrained into the culinary consciousness of most Tokyoites, but there are a few others which may come as a cheeky surprise. 

food hacks japan

Family Mart Chicken Burger and Zinger

Family Mart’s now iconic, famichiki (Family Mart fried chicken) is a true institution. Fairly large, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, it’s become a student, office worker and Tokyo Weekender staff favorite. Until recently, many Tokyoites have been unaware that the konbini also sells buns which have tartar sauce layered on one side and in which you put your chicken and, hey presto, you have an outrageously good chicken burger.

My pal and colleague Stephan Jarvis likes to go one further and orders a hash potato from the hot box which sits next to the registers. Popping that on top of the chicken, you have a Zinger. Greasy, incredibly fattening and juicy, it’s a brilliant late-night after-izakaya snack or potentially a hangover cure. 

Family Mart Chicken and Waffles

Much like the Zinger above, my American pals rave about konbini pancakes with a famichiki whacked in between. According to some, it resembles chicken and waffles, that iconic and much-loved American dish. Sweet and salty, it’s become a big hit online. 

Italian Yakisoba Pan

My good pal and colleague Zoria Petkoska put me on to this one (she says she saw it in an anime). Yakisoba pan (hot dog bread with yakisoba noodles inside) sounds terrible but actually tastes not too bad. Apparently, some people have been pressing the yakisoba pan on a panini maker or hot plate, and it is magically transformed into a magnificent Italian grilled sando. Grazie mille

Saizeriya Calzone

I’ve already written my ode to Saizeriya. Cheap, cheerful and everyone’s favorite, this faux-Italian chain is brilliant in every way. From the mirano fu doria and ebi salad to the huge jugs of wine, beers and “drink bar,” it’s a staple for many residents of the Japanese capital. A nice hack which has been doing the online rounds involves ordering a plate of potatoes and putting them in the middle of one of Saizeriya’s great pizzas. You then fold it over (I go for the sausage pizza, personally) and you have made yourself a very nice and calorie-heavy calzone. My Italian pals have never spoken to me ever again after I admitted this foodie crime to them. 

food hacks japan

A Piece and Chips

Years ago, my American colleagues nearly had a heart attack when I came back to the lunchroom with a portion of L-size McDonald’s fries and a loaf of bread. Get a slice of bread, put the fries on top, put another slice on top of that and you, my friend, have what Scottish people like to affectionately call a “piece and chips.” A piece is the Scottish word for sandwich and chips are fries. Naturally, it’s absolutely terrible for your health, but if you’re broke and hungry, this will definitely do a job. 

Iced Fruit and Sparkling Water 

One of the best things about Tokyo is the number of konbini in the city. There are about six all within a five-minute walk from my house. A few summers ago, strolling through the city with my daughter, we decided to stop for a cold drink. I remember having watched a YouTuber film a nice hack including buying a packet of frozen fruit balls (they come in a number of flavors), a large bottle of freezing cold sparkling water and a few cups. Put the frozen fruit in a cup, add some sparkling water, and you have yourself a really refreshing drink that cools you down in the brutal Tokyo summers. 

Black Velvet

I’m cheating here as this is a U.K. hack involving Guinness and cider. Called the Black Velvet, it’s basically half a pint of cider and half a pint of Guinness in the same glass. In Tokyo, many konbini sell cans or bottles of the black stuff and Kirin’s very nice Hard Cidre brand. Whack them together, and you’re on your way to a great and very boozy night out. If you’re feeling particularly fancy, then substitute the cider with some champagne. 

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