Japan, the land of strange and amazing snacks, has once again exceeded my expectations. For months I suspiciously eyed these strange packages in the convenience stores and supermarkets, certain that the sandwich within would be a complete let down. How wrong I was – Yamazaki Pan has come to be my new best friend when it comes to bread products.
Think of a toastie that hasn’t been toasted. Basically, two snow-white pieces of bread (without crusts) that have had a filling spread between them and are then squished together all around the edges, like a bread ravioli. In this way, the sandwich is sealed so the filling has no chance of escaping on the first bite. Each package comes with two of these little bread parcels (or three/four smaller sized ones if you get a variety pack.) Not an entire meal on it’s own, but couple with a couple of onigiri or a sizeable salad, and you’ve got yourself a perfectly suitable luncheon.
I dare to say most sandwich shops couldn’t offer the same quantity of fillings as you get with the Yamazaki Pan – there are sixty-four different types listed on their website. Obviously it depends on what space the supermarket dedicates to stocking the sandwiches – convenience stores may only have a couple of choices, whereas supermarkets stock up to 20 different types. Some flavours are sold regionally or seasonally, so it’s best to pop along to your local shop and check what’s available before you get your hopes up. But for a quick introduction…
For a lunchtime snack, a savoury option is my hands-down favourite. Popular choices include: tuna mayonnaise, egg mayonnaise, chicken teriyaki, potato salad, curry and ham. These are mostly meaty but there are a few vegetarian options available.
A cross between a sandwich and a cake, the sweet options are perfect with a cup of tea or coffee if you have a sweet craving. Choices include: caramel and vanilla cream, cookies and cream, blueberry jam, latte and milk, chocolate and cream and of course strawberry jam.
It wouldn’t be a Japanese product if there weren’t at least a few slightly strange options to choose from – things that Japanese people wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at but which foreigners find very strange choices for sandwich fillings. I have yet to try any of these unusual ones, but maybe one day when I’m feeling daring. Some options are: melon and cream, pineapple jam and whipped cream, green tea cream and red beans, matcha and chestnut and finally, the ever popular red beans.
For a full list of flavours available (and where they are available) you can check out the Yamazaki Pan web page.
Calories per slice vary from around 100 to 200 depending on the filling, with most averaging about 130 – 140 calories, so that’s just under 300 calories per bag. Price wise, a pack will cost from 120 Yen to 160 Yen, but of course if you go to the supermarket in the early evening time, many are reduced to around the 100 Yen mark.
The Yamazaki company was founded in 1948, and as well as the ready-sandwiches they produce plain bread products, cakes, biscuits and other confectionery items. Despite the popularity of the sandwich lunch packs, processed bread products make up only 5% of their net sales, with plain bread making up the majority at almost 60%.
The Yamazaki Pan sandwiches are good value for money and offer an interesting twist on the traditional sandwich. True, the fillings don’t quite reach the edges of the bread, and a pre-prepared sandwich is much higher in salt than one that you’ve made at home, but the lunch pack is a quick, convenient treat, especially good for school lunches and summertime picnics. So if you are yet to pick up a pocket of wheaty-delight, go ahead and try one.