The PHP 65 Convenience Store Chicken CombatAugust 7, 2015
There was a time when convenience store food was considered atrocious. Currently, at different times of the day, they still are. But, change is coming! With more and more offices working midnight and graveyard shifts, convenience stores have upped their game to match fast food chains.
Since it’s hard to eat everything in a convenience store, I went ahead and zoned in on the chicken. We hear it tastes like everything. So, going by that logic, I ate my way through the fried chicken of the top three convenience store franchises around Manila, to see if they’re truly worth crossing the road for.
- PHP 65 meals only, one piece
- Must be freshly cooked or best available
- Dark meat only
The chicken’s meat is deceptively moist. The 7-Eleven chickens aren’t cooked onsite but are instead delivered daily, so the chances of getting a fresh one is close to impossible. The meat is very similar to lechon manok—the day-old, rubbery, limp kind that borders mystery meat territory. Still, the flavors run deep in the meat, which is probably the result of brining. . . and sitting in the truck waiting to be delivered.
It has a fluffy dredge to it, which feels very reminiscent of Shakey’s or KFC chicken—again, the day-old kind. But, props to the good attempt, the skin on 7-Eleven chickens may probably be the last attempt at injecting a little life into an already dead bird. On occasion, maybe a little too much life that its overly salty crumb packs a fast punch on the tastebuds. You can see the attempt to throw in their batch of secret spices which, over time, just become downright salty.
They’re extremely generous with the gravy, which comes in a blessedly big serving cup instead of those ridiculously tiny plastic ketchup containers. You can just pour the tub of gravy right on top of your rice, just as society has taught you! The only problem is the gravy tastes like paper—that’s right, you heard me. Paper. I want to go ahead and blame this on the copious amounts of cornstarch swimming in the stock.
The intensity of this variety is so potent, you can really stretch out the rice mileage. By “intensity” I mean saltiness, and by “rice mileage” I mean get an extra bundle and even share it with a friend. Wash it down with their fine selection of sodas. (Is it possible that saltiness is intentional, and possibly a tactic to boost soda sales?)
2. Mini Stop
The Uncle John’s chicken from Mini Stop, when freshly cooked, can get your day going. I mean, fuck coffee, just go with the damn chicken because this is how mornings should begin! The meat is tender, moist, and juicy, which is pretty much all the qualifications for a up-close, stylized, slowmo, falling-from-the-heavens fried chicken commercial. The meat almost resembles. . . Chicken Joy. There, I said it. On a good day, it can probably even compete with it.
Because the skin is the best part, you save it for last, obviously. So, once you’ve gotten through the meat, Mini Stop chicken finishes off strong with its skin. It’s crisp to the bite and carries out the same taste as its meat, so you know you’re eating good chicken. So good in fact that it bares strikingly similar Chicken Joy. All these similarities have led me to believe that Uncle John seduced Hetty Spaghetti, and she’s giving up Jollibee’s secrets to her forbidden older lover. The gravy thickens.
But here’s where the similarities end. The Mini Stop gravy is a decent, light brown sauce that doesn’t really stand out, and for good reason. The chicken, after all, is the highlight here and when the chicken is good, the gravy is nothing more than courtesy.
You know when they say beauty doesn’t run just skin deep? In this case, it sinks right down to the bone (literally!). Mini Stop chicken is undoubtedly a solid pick. Even the ones that have been sitting under the orange light can pass for decent fast food chicken. For best results, try to get it fresh off the fryer, along with the 10 other people waiting in line for it. It’s at that moment when it’s hardest to distinguish whether it’s their own or from the Bee.
3. Family Mart
As the low key chicken player in the convenience store trio, Family Mart’s chicken is surprisingly normal. Normalcy in this case is a good thing because, of the three, it’s the one that’s resembles home cooking most. Right out of the fryer, the meat is unpretentious—despite Family Mart’s assortment of pseudo Japanese—and carries what one would expect from a decent chicken: fresh and well-seasoned meat.
The chicken’s breading isn’t as glamorous or enticing as the others. What it does have is something simple. The chicken is breaded in a thinner coat compared to its convenience store chicken counterparts, giving you just the right skin bite time before your teeth sink in to the meat.
The downside is the gravy that comes with it. In the case of Family Mart, theirs tastes like over-seasoned mushroom soup that’s thick in the mouth. Though it works okay with the rice (don’t argue with mushroom soup and rice because that combo is pretty boss, too), it faces the ketchup cup predicament; there’s not enough of it. Getting a little more gravy can really tie up the chicken, making it feel more like a home cooked meal.
The Family Mart chicken’s simplicity is its strength, breaking the fast-food-style philosophy heralded by the other convenience stores. This difference gives a minutely unique take on corner-store chicken variants.