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. —Nikkitha Bakshani
- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 10 minutes
- Makes 1 sandwich
slices soft white bread (shokupan is best)
salt and pepper, to taste
- You can boil eggs however you like, but I recommend a method that still yields a bright, yellow yolk. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and add a splash of rice vinegar. Place the eggs in the water and boil, uncovered, for 9 minutes. Remove and place in a large bowl of ice water. Peel the eggs in the water (it comes off easier). Cut the hard-boiled eggs in halves or quarters and place in a food processor.
- While eggs are boiling, cut the crusts off two slices of bread.
- Add the mayo to the food processor, and a little bit of salt. Puree for a few seconds. Taste, add more salt and pepper, if necessary. You won't be processing it for too long—just enough for the egg salad to look smooth and unified.
- Spread over one slice of bread, so that there's a thick layer. You might not want to spread it too close to the edges, as the pressure of your fingers on the sandwich might make the filling ooze out a bit. (But it's a pretty oozy sandwich, so don't fret.) Top with the other slice and cut in half, gently, with a sharp knife. You can also enjoy this open-faced; that's not the 7-Eleven way but it's still good. There will be leftover egg salad; set it aside, refrigerate, and use within a few days.