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).
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.
- 2 slices soft white bread (shokupan is best)
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- 3 tablespoons kewpie mayonnaise
- salt and pepper, to taste