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Jason Diamond's desire for the famous Japanese 7-Eleven egg salad sandwich inspired him to recreate it at home. Kewpie mayonnaise is key to this recipe—made with only egg yolks and rice or apple cider vinegar—along with a fluffy Japanese milk bread and just the right ratio of whites to yolks.

May 2022

Gallery

Credit: Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Food Styling by Ana Kelly / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Recipe Summary

total:
1 hr 20 mins
active:
20 mins
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If there's one tip I feel confident sharing about going to Japan, it's that your first meal shouldn't be at some iconic sushi place or secret yakitori spot only chefs seem to know about: It should be at 7-Eleven. Between the jet lag from the long flight messing up your sense of reality, the flashing lights, and the crowds, the first 24 hours in a place like Tokyo risk feeling like an urban fun house. The Japanese version of the famous convenience store, where you can get canned iced coffee that rivals any pricey cold brew in the States, crispy karaage, as well as bento boxes, makes the transition a little easier. And then there's the egg salad sandwich. 


After a lifetime getting them in school lunches, I never believed something as simple as an egg sandwich could be so perfect. But when I ate my first ever Japanese 7-Eleven iteration at 10 p.m. while sitting in my hotel room after a bumpy flight across the Pacific, when I was almost certain I was in the middle of a waking dream, I knew then that I was going to fall in love with Japan. 


This sandwich, made with a creamy, yolk-heavy salad whipped up and served alongside a few spare chunks of whites on fluffy milk bread, stands out thanks to one special ingredient: Kewpie mayo. Why we Americans settle for lesser mayos, I'll never know; the yolk-only and vinegar mayo just hits different, as the kids say. It hit so different that when I got back home, more than the little dried fishes I sampled in a market in Kyoto, or the most perfect Negroni I've ever had, most of all, I couldn't stop daydreaming about that sandwich. 


I make egg salad on a somewhat regular basis. So I thought, why not try to recreate that flavor I had on my first night in Tokyo? Thankfully, I'm part of a CSA that sends me too many eggs each week, and I'd raided the shelves of a market near my house, buying up as much Kewpie mayo as I could; my problem was the bread. I had tried several bakeries and came close to giving up, when one day, as I was browsing my local farmers market, I found it—perfect Japanese milk bread from the Lost Bread Co. in Philadelphia. 


As I got to work, I could tell the first batch was a duller yellow, meaning I needed to limit the involvement of egg whites in the salad. About four batches in, I started to worry. The 7-Eleven salad had a creamy texture that I couldn't quite achieve. Was I whipping too hard? Was I not using enough mayo? Around this time was when I first started trying to track down somebody, anybody, connected with the company, but I kept coming up against dead ends. The few replies I did get were friendly, polite people in Japan who told me they couldn't help. I thought of asking a friend who lives in Tokyo to just go buy a sandwich and read off the ingredients to me, but that's when I started realizing I was betraying the spirit of the endeavor. This was about remembering something, so I kept working, making batches, and inviting over whoever I could to eat egg salad outside on my roof. 


Finally, I reached a point of my testing where I was close but still missing something that I couldn't put my finger on—all I could hit on was the Kewpie mayo and that extra tang. I needed to smooth that out, and I remembered a friend telling me that the reason his Italian grandmother tossed some sugar in her sauce was because the canned tomatoes she bought had a tanginess that the version from her homeland didn't have. So, borrowing a little logic from my friend's nonna, I sprinkled a bit of sugar, mixed it in, and that was it. You can't beat the real thing, of course, but until I can get back to Japan and walk into a fluorescent-lit convenience store after a long flight and purchase a sandwich as my first meal, this homemade version that I spent a summer working and reworking into my own thing will do just fine.

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high. Using a slotted spoon, carefully lower eggs into boiling water; cook 11 minutes. Remove eggs using a slotted spoon, or carefully drain into a sink. Plunge eggs into a bowl filled with ice water, and let stand until cool, about 15 minutes. Drain well. Carefully peel eggs.

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  • Using your hands, split eggs open; separate yolks and whites. Place yolks in a medium bowl, and mash using the back of a fork until broken down and a few chunks remain; set aside. Finely chop egg whites; place in a small bowl, and set aside.

  • Add mayonnaise, salt, sugar, and pepper to mashed yolks in bowl; gently stir until mixture is combined and some chunks remain. (Mixture should not be too chunky or a paste.) 

  • Add half of the chopped egg whites to yolk mixture in medium bowl; reserve remaining egg whites for another use. Gently fold whites into yolk mixture until just coated. Chill 1 hour.

  • Stir cream into chilled egg mixture; season with additional salt to taste. Set aside. Spread butter evenly over one side of each bread slice. Top 1 slice, butter side up, with egg salad. Cover with remaining slice, butter side down. Trim off and discard crust; cut sandwich in half diagonally so you have 2 triangles. Serve.

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