Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Yes, I am going to talk about 7-Eleven.  The convenience store.  The one you probably only ever visit when you need booze or a Slurpee.  You see, convenience stores in Taiwan are ubiquitous.  Taiwan is about 14,000 square miles and there are 4,820 7-Eleven locations.  So, there is one 7-Eleven every eight square miles.  I know that one every eight square miles doesn't seem terribly dense, but much of Taiwan is mountainous and uninhabitable.   For comparison, the U.S. is about 3.5 million square miles and has 8,200 stores.  Do the math and you get one 7-Eleven every 425 square miles.  You can't walk a block in Taiwan without hitting a 7-Eleven or another convenience store.  FamilyMart, the second largest convenience store chain in Taiwan, has over 2,400 locations!  Convenience stores are everywhere!

Taiwanese 7-Eleven also differs from its American counterpart because it is far more useful.  For instance, you can pay parking tickets at any 7-Eleven.  Have to pay a utility bill?  Go to 7-Eleven.  Buying something through mail order?  Have it sent to any 7-Eleven and pick it up at your leisure.  Send a fax?  Go to 7-Eleven.  Need to buy a transit ticket?  7-Eleven.  Ship a package?  7-Eleven.  They're wonderfully convenient centers of commerce.  In addition, they also sell your usual assortment of snack food, drinks, toiletries, video games etc.  I used to go to 7-Eleven every morning to get an iced latte.  7-Eleven (and other convenience stores) are AWESOME in Taiwan.  Notsomuch here in America.

Anyhow, here are a few pictures from 7-Eleven.  I'm just gonna highlight a few of my favorite things.  Picture:   
Clean, semi-organized.  Different stores are different sizes and carry different things, but there are some standard items.  There's always a coffee machine up front, chips (although in strange flavors like seaweed and BBQ-chicken), candy, lots of drinks (I luv Dakara), an electronic kiosk from which to print, develop pictures etc., lots of microwavable food, tea eggs, and instant noodles (think ramen).  I can't emphasize enough how much better instant noodles are in Asia.  Here's what my local 7-Eleven carried:  

Just look at that variety!  It seems a little overwhelming, but just buy one and give it a go.  If it sucks, don't buy it again.  One thing you will notice is that many of them come in bowls, very few in plastic bags.  How convenient!  The price ranges from 50 cents to 2 dollars.  Opening up your noodles could cause some confusion because the fancier ones can include up to 4 seasoning packets.  1 might be a dry, seasoning powder, the second a flavored oil, a 3rd packet of stewed meat etc.  Again, just open them all up, throw them in with the dried noodles and pour hot water over the whole mess.  It usually tastes great. 

Something else I really liked about 7-11 is the steamed bun thingy.  Cheap and tasty.  Each of these will contain a couple of different varieties.  Just match up the colored paper stuck to the bottom of the bun to the sign on the front. 

The last item I only discovered when my girlfriend got sick and I had to spend a few hours in the hospital.  Yes, large hospitals in Taiwan have their own 7-Eleven.  Each of the packages contain two layers.  On the bottom is cooked white rice.  On an upper, removable tray is some sort of saucy accompaniment for the rice.  When you make our purchase, the clerk will ask you if you want it microwaved.  When hot, open it up, pour the sauce over the rice and eat.  These meal replacement items cost around 2 bucks and, you know what?  Totally worth it.  Here are two of my favorites:
On the left is mapo doufuCurry rice is on the right.  Both totally delicious and available nearly everywhere in Taiwan, 24 hours a day.  In short, 7-Eleven in Taiwan is amazing.  Go.