Lawson’s bite-sized chicken snack is loved across Japan, but can that love stretch around the globe?
Originally introduced in 1986, Karaage-kun is a paper pack of bite-sized pieces of karaage, Japanese-style fried chicken. To-date, Lawson has sold over 3.1 billion pieces of Karaage-kun, making it something of a cultural institution, which is where our Japanese-language reporter Seiji comes in.
Seiji is always looking for ways to share modern Japanese culture with people from around the world, and so he decided the best, or at least most delicious, way to do that would be to go to his local Lawson, pick up as much Karaage-kun as he could carry, and then stage a group taste-test at Hotsuma International School, an institution in Tokyo’s Takadanobaba neighborhood that offers Japanese language lessons for foreign students. In a happy mistake, he actually ended up buying too much fried chicken, and so a few of our English-language staff members also got to tag along.
Like with a lot of popular snack food lines in Japan, Karaage-kun is often available in special, limited-time flavors, like Final Fantasy Limit Break or Black Hole. For this test, though, Seiji wanted everyone to taste the three permanent members of the Karaage-kun family: Regular, Cheese, and spicy Red. After lovingly placing a pack of each on each taste tester’s desk, he called in the panel, made up of people from 14 different nations: Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Korea, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, the U.S., and Vietnam.
After a brief introduction, in which Seiji mentioned that Karaage-kun is made with domestically raised chicken and comes with a toothpick attached to each package that can be used as an eating utensil, the taste-testing began.