Merits of the cook-it-yourself food movement have been hotly debated by both culinary academics and MasterChef Juniors alike. We East Asians certainly have it good with our hot pot delicacies, but lately a sense of sed non satiata rumbled in my connoisseur tummy, and I yearned for a contemporary update to this cooking tradition.
A bright saviour to this predicament revealed itself upon my vision — ’twas 7Eleven in all its conveniently eclectic glory.
Unlike the horizontal arrangements of orthodox restaurants, 7Eleven pushes you past the comfort zone by presenting a generous array of pre-packed platters, all displayed with the subtlety of a mountain and sitting cold in refrigeration.
I curated a sample of dishes that would form my dinner and carried it to the counter. Noticing a lack of cooking utensils or a kitchen for that matter, I asked the maître d’ behind the counter to kindly direct me to their hidden churrasqueira or perhaps their shichirin for me to whip up my purchased choice platters.
I very nearly dropped my satin-lined wallet when the befuddled lady simply pointed me to a microwave oven at the corner of the establishment. This humble appliance is where these delicacies can be concocted? Mind-boggling! My friends, we have truly arrived in the future.
I brought the microwaved platters to my dinner table, wafting heavily with furious steam and saporous aroma. For appetisers, I picked 7Eleven’s gourmet sandwiches — the Cheesy Beef with Black Pepper Mushroom Sauce ($2.80) and the Black Pepper Chicken Club ($3.20).
Biting into this burger sincerely brought tears to my eyes; half induced by its joyous taste, the other half induced by supreme burns in my mouth. The chemistry between the Italian button mushrooms, melted Swiss cheese and the luscious juices of the beef patty was simply of the highest order. The well-bred oxen that was sacrificed for this meal would have been honoured to know that its meat was utilised to perfection. Oh fungi, thou hath bestowed upon my humble hands a great starter!
Thus it was to my utmost dismay that the club sandwich trailed behind in my oesophagus fell short of the taste preceded by its lofty cousin. Even with the seasoned, almost jaded palate of a cheap gourmand, this was a worse meal than the time when a wayward Taiwanese vagrant tricked me into consuming ‘”true” stinky tofu that was actually fermented for a year in rodent discharge. Soggy bread, miserly chicken filling and non-existent sauce — this was an affront to John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich. Not a great start to the meal, 7Eleven.
Growing doubtful about the chef de cuisine behind these platters, I hesitantly bit into the the first main: Soya Sauce Chicken Rice ($3.90). Instantly, all my fears were crushed by a sledgehammer of flavour. Delicate with its shy sting of brine, the elegantly braised chicken oozed an orchestral signature of honeyed horizons, with influences of Shandong-styled seasoning lurking at the back.
The broth was bountiful and heavy, and made an extremely robust combination with the rustic chicken rice. As if the elements weren’t aligned perfectly enough, the rice was garnished righteously with two carrot slices, adding a minor beta-carotene melée to the dish. With a dash of thoughtfully provided chili-ginger sambal, the dish was downright golden.
A break to the proceedings were in order to rest my palate from that full-bodied meal. As a precursor to the next main, I opened up the Hanjuku Eggs ($2.30)
どのような一日！素敵な何日！彼らはどのようにビニール袋で無傷の風味豊かな芸術のこれらの二つの旋回部分を維持するために管理したのですか？特定のハイライトは、卵黄だった – 彼らはJAPONAISE醤油の酸っぱいドラマで完璧bedwettersました。ソース自体はあなたのvaginの食欲に飽和味のviolentのthrustです。
It delivered a great Kanagawa wave of pleasure to my senses, and gets a clear recommendation of purchase from me.
On to the next meal, the Chicken Carbonara with Penne Pasta ($3.90). This one took me by complete surprise — not only is this a faithful reproduction of a Roman classic, it dramatically approached the genre of carbonara pasta with the extravagance of a Renaissance architect. There were generous shreds of chicken, polygonal slices of chicken ham, chunks of free-range mushrooms on top of the already robust carbonara sauce and penne. It’s just difficult to comprehend how they managed to keep the dish to an affordable expense.
This could have easily been served in Michelin star ristorantes, I thought, as I bit into the chunks of meat and pasta. The creamy texture was undying in its milky Nirvana, confronting your tastebuds with the question “are we men, or are we dancers?”. The penne teetered close to being al dente, but then again, nothing in this world can be perfect.
Then it was time for dessert, but as the 7Eleven Selects only proffered the savoury, so I picked out the next best thing: Curry Fish Balls ($2.20). They closely resembled handmade ice cream, I guess.
Unfortunately, the meal had to end on a sullied note, as the curry failed to elicit any emotional response from my discerning culinary abilities. The fishball tasted like the processed meat it was, and the curry lacked the finesse or crescendo of its Southeast Asian origins. Mediocre!
Do I miss the high-octane adrenaline rush of cooking everything by hand, getting close enough to the flames to feel the heat dance on my face and hear my sweat sizzling on the pan? Yes, I dare say I do. But the other part of me rejoices over the spirit of hasty expedience that 7Eleven provides in their practical yet piquant platters, which have certainly served the masses comfortably over the past decades. No, we shouldn’t cast aside 7Eleven as yet another brick in the culinary wall — give their offerings a chance, and chance may just offer upon you.
Photos: Ilyas Sholihyn
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