Japanese

How to Make a Japanese Egg Salad Sandwich

September 20, 2017

Around this time last summer-meets-autumn, I was on a train from Kyoto to Nara telling a friend about an indulgent omakase dinner I'd had in Tokyo earlier that week. The sushi chef, who'd been in the biz for a measly 30 years, put a slick of wasabi under a triangle of fatty tuna (caught that morning, probably), smushed it with meticulously-cooked rice, and served it to me on the palm of his hand. I was mesmerized. "That's cool," one of my friend's friends said. "But really, the best thing you'll eat in Japan is a 7-Eleven egg salad sandwich."

I was skeptical, but that did not stop me from buying a sandwich the morning I returned to Tokyo. I immediately noticed that the yolks in the crustless sandwich were vibrant, more orange than yellow, and that the bread was soft and spongy, like Wonder Bread but with more spring (shokupan, most likely).

This is a no-crust zone. Photo by Bobbi Lin

It was a prelude to the even softer filling, which looked more smooth than chunky, with zero evidence of yolks and whites once being separate entities. I had to be dainty—a little squeeze and the filling would spill over my hands, too aggressive a bite and it would dribble down my face—but I didn't mind having to be extra cautious; it was easily the best egg salad sandwich I'd ever eaten. (Maybe my vigilance would have been better directed elsewhere, though, as it was while eating a 7-Eleven egg salad sandwich that I tripped and slid down a bunch of concrete stairs in a subway underpass. Yes, it was worth it.)

I am far from the Japanese egg salad sandwich's only enthusiast. Anthony Bourdain sings the praises of the one from Lawson, a 7-Eleven competitor. Others are loyal to the one from FamilyMart, another widespread Japanese "conbini." I've tried all three and I profess loyalty to 7-Eleven's, perhaps because there was one a stone's throw from where I was staying, and I pretty much started and ended my Tokyo days and nights there.

It took me a year, and a few times tinkering with no-recipe egg salads, to realize that I could absolutely re-create this at home. I browsed a few recipes for "Japanese egg salad sandwich" online and found that I liked Sylvia G Eatery's proportion of 6 tablespoons of mayo to 4 eggs. Lone shark that I am, I modified it to a single serving of 2-3 tablespoons of mayo for every two eggs, which leaves some leftover egg salad to dip bread crusts into (and then some). I also skipped the onions because I'm lazy.

Our Head Recipe Tester Stephanie Bourgeois said that the fresh eggs she got from her friend's mother's farm made for a brighter yellow salad than store-bought eggs, so you'll want the freshest eggs you can find for this recipe. However, considering we're trying to re-create a mass-produced sandwich here, regular eggs would work fine. Just as with any other egg salad, this is no time to shy away from mayo—Kewpie mayo, to be exact, which is available online and at most East Asian markets. If you don't have Kewpie mayo and want to make this ASAP, try it with regular mayo. Just make sure to use soft white bread, free of crusts. If you can make Japanese milk bread at home or buy it, great; if not, good old white bread works too.

But the eureka moment of my experimentation—the detail that took me right back to Akasaka—was that I had to blitz the egg salad in my food processor. This gave it the cloudy, fluffy texture that's garnered legions of fans across the globe. Enjoy it open-faced, if you want to keep things KonMari-level neat. After all, this is not the official 7-Eleven recipe—just a recipe that comes closest to my memory.

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9 Comments

brad January 13, 2018
Nice article, but since you're writing about food.... maguro (tuna) is always frozen to bring out the flavor, then defrosted and prepared sushi or sashimi style. Think about the giant tuna being auctioned at Tsukiji Fish Market: they're all frozen, right?!
 
Renate September 24, 2017
I have read that orange egg yolks are an indicator of good quality free range eggs.
 
Jennifer September 23, 2017
Whoa! What about the tiny hint of wasabi in them? Those were my favorite in Yokohama.
 
jph September 21, 2017
How can it be "Tomago Sando," (Japanese Egg Salad Sandwich) if you omit the onions (as per Sylvia G Eatery's version that you cited), and use regular mayo instead of the kewpie mayo?
 
KDH9966 October 15, 2017
The minced onion would be essential!
 
Pat I. September 21, 2017
The best for me are at the ones at the circular bar after security at the Narita Airport...and the tuna salad sandwich there might be pretty stiff competition as well. Sit there with a friend and order one of each to split. Pair with a cold Kirin and you're ready for the trip. So desu ney. I miss Japan!
 
Erin M. September 21, 2017
Super delicious! Thanks for posting!
 
Lindsay-Jean H. September 21, 2017
I'm on Team FamilyMart, but I still can't wait to try your version!
 
Chihiro T. September 20, 2017
Yessss Akasaka apartment shout-out! And we all know that there is no contest. 7-11 is the best combini of them all!