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Here in Canada, when we hear the word convenience store, we think of a place that sells the necessities -- we go there for pop, chips, a lighter, a toothbrush, and if we're feeling desperate, maybe a 2 for 1 deal on the questionable hot food items they sell by the checkout. But in other parts of the world, the convenience store is seen as more than just a place to get what you need -- it's a place that holds an important place in hearts, as well as stomachs.
In Japan, in particular, the convenience stores (or konbini as they call them) are sacred and the food they sell there is not only loved by locals but something that travellers seek out when visiting. Even the classic, populous convenience stores act not only as a place to get what you need, but also as an introduction to local flavours. They sell freshly made food items like onigiri rice bowls, udon noodles, katsu and more. After the concept was popularized by the famous book Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, and through shared stories of travels, the concept of convenience store eats has now become present even here in Toronto.
Mini Konbini, a new pop-up focused on bringing Japanese convenience store culture to Toronto, offers popular snacks that you would find in Japan. They're serving everything from onigiri to cold snacks like katsu sandwiches and salads, and hot snacks like miso soups, Mini Chikin (boneless chicken thighs) to sweet dorayaki (honey pancakes) for dessert. They're also bottling up their adored hot sauces Umami Habenero and Habanero Miso, for $10 a pop, which are worth adding into the mix.
For their upcoming pop-up on April 30, they're focusing on the katsu sando in particular, a staple when it comes to Japanese convenience store foods, dating back to 1899 as an homage to schnitzel. A katsu consists of two slices of Japanese milk bread, slathered with tonkatsu sauce (think A1-like sauce), bookending a thick, battered and fried cutlet of meat. Their version consists of tender fried pork loin, shredded cabbage, tonkatsu sauce, kewpie mayo, hot mustard and fresh Hokkaido milk bread.
They're getting popular, fast! So for all upcoming pop-up dates, you'll need to pre-order via Instagram DM or email. Their next is on April 30 and unfortunately pre-orders are already sold out but limited walk-ins are available from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on April 30 at Tallboys, located at 838 Bloor St W. but it is cash-only!