Around a decade ago, when our cable provider aired the Star Mandarin channel (where I could watch my favorite Stephen Chow flicks The God of Cookery and Here Comes the Judge with English subtitles), my siblings and I would get fascinated by the ads for 7-11 in Taiwan.
There seemed to be a number of things available there that seemed – at the time – impossible to get in the Philippines at the time: milk tea in bottles, bottled cafe au lait, Japanese-style o-nigiri (savory flavored rice balls), tea eggs (hard-boiled eggs whose shells are cracked before being braised in a mixture of soy sauce and black tea), soft-serve ice cream, and – to the wonder of three people fascinated with Japanese pop culture at the time - oden.
Most recently, 7-11 Philippines introduced oden to the local masses, marketing it under the name Hot Pot. It’s the sort of meal that has a laissez les bon temps rouler vibe going for it: you take your pick out of a selection of choice bites rather than having to deal with a set package of which you might only enjoy one or two pieces.
I’ve mentioned oden on the blog before, mostly in the context of oden-ramen (oden added to instant ramen). But that particular version involves plopping fried oden dumplings into the soup. This one is different in the sense that nothing is fried; everything is cooked in chicken broth kept hot and steaming in an electric stock-pot. Interestingly enough, everything is nevertheless al dente: firm to the bite, not at all mushy or soggy.
Once you tell the person manning the counter at your friendly neighborhood 7-11, you’ll be asked to take your pick out of a rather interesting menu of tidbits priced at P 10.00 to P 15.00 apiece. An additional P 5.00 gets you a packet of noodles to cook in the broth, too.
The current menu features the following treats:
- faux lobster rolls;
- fish tofu (fish-cake squares);
- squid balls;
- prawn balls;
- barbecued kikiam (a sort of doughy, pork-flavored sausage);
- sesame tofu balls stuffed with minced chicken and glass noodles;
- chikuwa (a brown-and-white tube made with mince white fish); and
- sections of sweetcorn on the cob.
Everything is dished up in small pasteboard bowls with a generous helping of broth, a cover is popped on, and, if you’ve ordered noodles, you wait a couple of minutes until they’ve become soft enough to eat.
The broth needs work, I’m afraid; it’s a tad too salty, really, but it at least keeps the tidbits nice, succulent, and flavorful. The lobster roll was pretty tasty, as were the squid and prawn balls. But the big surprises were the barbecued kikiam which was meaty-tasting and most savory and the stuffed tofu. The tofu was good enough that I regretted getting just one.
Given the fact that it’s been raining hard almost every evening of late, I would certainly recommend this as a light-ish supper before facing the end-of-day crowds and hours of snail-paced traffic. ;)