As an American living in Japan, I often get comments to the effect of, “People in your home country love fried foods, don’t they?” And really, I can’t argue otherwise. After all, the United States is the birthplace of such culinary contributions as the Double Down, the KFC menu item that replaced the bread in a fried chicken sandwich with two more pieces of fried chicken.
Of course, Japan loves fried foods too, even if it doesn’t eat them with the same frequency, or in the same volume, as America does. As proof, people in Osaka are proving that they can put air quotes around their breadless “sandwiches” too, in the form of the croquette sandwich, which comes wrapped in a fried outer layer.
Those of you who’ve had the pleasure of perusing the shelves at a Japanese bakery or convenience store may be wondering what all the fuss is about. After all, double punches of carbs made up of deep-fried mashed potato disks nestled inside a bun have been common for years, usually looking something like this.
That’s not how they do things at Tentora, though. Located on the Komagawa shopping street in Osaka’s Higashi Sumiyoshi Ward, Tentora offers a plethora of premade foods, with both bento boxed lunches and individual dishes available.
You might notice that those bento seem pretty heavy on the fried food quotient, as that’s what Tentora does best. But while all of those bento look filling and delicious, they’re not what the store is best known for. That honor goes to Tentora’s unique take on what constitutes a croquette sandwich.
Ordinarily, you’d expect a (blank) sandwich to have whatever the “blank” is inside two pieces of bread. A “ham sandwich” has ham on the inside, for example. When you eat a “tuna sandwich,” you don’t expect your palms to actually be touching the fish, unless you’re incredibly uncoordinated and/or intoxicated.
But nope, at Tentora, “croquette sandwich” means the croquette is on the outside.
ヴァイス・シュバルツレーヴェ (@ginironoakazema) March 24, 2015
Tentora starts by taking one of its extra-thick croquettes, then making a deep cut, turning the mass of fried starch into a substitute bun. Showing a surprising amount of restraint, Tentora’s cooks don’t cram yet another croquette into the incision. Instead, they fill it up with creamy egg salad, made with the store’s in-house mayonnaise. Next they add a tiny dollop of ketchup, plus a sprig of parsley, either as garnish or a cursory nod to the concept of eating green leaf vegetables, and their work is done.
It looks like Tentora’s croquette sandwiches have been around long enough that they’re not a direct response to KFC’s double Down. However, since being featured on Himitsu no Kenmin Show, a weekly Japanese TV variety program that highlights Japan’s regional customs and delicacies, they’ve had a surge in popularity. They’re still extremely reasonable, though, selling in packs of three for 300 yen (US$2.50), four for 400 yen, or five for 500 yen.
Attractive pricing aside, if you decide to grab a five-pack, we (and probably your doctor, too) really recommend sharing it with a group of friends.
Delica Tentora / デリカ天寅
Address: Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Higashi Sumiyoshi-ku, Komagawa 5-12-6
Open 10 a.m.-7 p.m.