7-11 – ice cream as a cultural experience

My grrl friends out there know that I love ice cream. I’m pretty positive I inherited this trait from my mother, who has the same weakness. My favourite ice cream back in Canada was Haagen Dasz Triple Brownie Overload: chocolate ice cream with shards of dark chocolate, bitter roasted almond pieces, and chewy brownie bits. mmmmmm.

(note to self: do NOT write about chocolate while experiencing PMS – excuse me while I go get a small piece of Venezuela Bitter {the best dark chocolate I’ve found easily accessible and affordable in Japan})

I also enjoyed green tea ice cream when I could find it, and rich vanilla ice cream with either chocolate or dark cherries in it. One of the things I was looking forward to in Japan was easy access to green tea ice cream. Little did I know…

There is a 7-11 within view of our apartment. Ed has blogged a little of the wonders that are Japanese convenience stores (called combini here). In Canada I would never have thought of buying my lunch at a 7-11. never. shudder. But here it is a common occurrence. Just the other day I bought 2 onigiri (triangle shaped sushi rice wrapped in seaweed with a filling – one salmon and one kombu seaweed one) and a set of inari (deep-fried tofu pockets soaked in a sweet syrup and stuffed with rice that’s been mixed with ginger and mushrooms). I also bought an aloe yogurt drink and ICE CREAM.

The decision is often difficult. There are the “Coolish” squeezy tubes with vanilla (mmmm) green tea (mmmm) and cappuccino (not so mmm) ice cream. There are the 7-11 brand cheap ice cream bars. There are the waffle-covered ice cream sandwiches with some wrestling guy on them. But I usually linger over and then grab one of the Haagen Dasz ice creams. These are not the 500mL tubs you see in the freezer in Canada, these are small fit-in-your-palm sized containers for ¥300 a pop. (After you pay ¥150 for an apple, ¥300 seems reasonable for a small tub of ice cream. ¥300=about $3.75CAN) Flavours include adzuki bean, matcha (ceremonial green tea), mango, chai, strawberry, and cherry vanilla. (At least those are the flavours I remember. They change with the season, as many snack foods do in Japan – that’s fodder for another post)

I remember the first time I bought the adzuki bean flavour. I had been here for a few weeks and the 7-11 ladies had started to recognize me. I came up to the counter with my small tub of ice cream and my change purse and the women at till asked me if I knew what I was buying. Did I like adzuki beans? Had I tried them before? Didn’t I think it was strange to have beans in ice cream? Did they have adzuki bean ice cream in Canada?

I assured her I had eaten adzuki beans before (though not in ice cream) and bought the tub of creamy goodness. And it was good. And yes, there are whole adzuki beans soaked in sugar in the ice cream. mmmmmmm.

The green tea ice cream varies in quality depending on brand. Haagen Dasz is by far the best. I think they have the highest concentration of matcha in their ice cream. The Coolish brand is good in a pinch, and is great when you know you’ll be walking somewhere as it is in this bag thing with a straw with lid attached. Ed told me (i.e. I’m not convinced it’s true) that ice cream makers use matcha ice cream to clean out the tubes in the machines. hmmmmm. It is a little grainy. I only seem to think about this when I’m partaking of the Coolish brand though. Could be the straw…

There are also many ice cream bars. There is a type that is very hard ice-like ice cream on the outside and then liquid cream on the inside. Messy. A little {ahem} sexual, shall we say? But tasty nonetheless. All sorts of flavours: melon, green tea, adzuki bean, mikan (what we know as christmas oranges), strawberry. Yum.

But the piece de resistance, the Haagen Dasz parfait. There is a Caramel Mochaccino flavour – but not being a coffee drinker, I went straight to the “Japanese Classic” parfait. Kuromitsu sauce, green tea ice cream, adzuki beans, rich cream ice cream, and adzuki bean paste.

Stay tuned for the “Virtual Haagen Dasz Japanese Classic Parfait” coming soon to these pages 🙂