I asked my Japanese friends what they thought about the typical Western meal of one main dish. The general consensus: not nearly enough variety. Japanese food is all about variety. You don’t see big portions of a few things, but small portions of many things. Even at buffet style restaurants, called “Viking” for some esoteric reason, plates are often segmented like this:
Panya means bread store, but consider them bakeries. Bakeries, but with a range of dishes outside western baked goods. There’s bread, of course, but these enterprising cookeries come equipped with dishes familiar and not-so familiar to the Western world.
There are varieties of hot dogs, but looking more like what the American South calls pigs-in-a-blanket. Pizzas by the slice are imaginatively topped, potato and egg chief among Japanese staples. Calzones though, remain untouched by Japanese creativity. Other Japanese creations you may or may not know of.
I’ve indulged in potato, bacon, squid, lima beans, and other assorted vegetables in a hot doggish bun. Burdock, chicken, mushroom, and mayonnaise on a pizza-like disk is a favorite. Fried curry donut is loveable, melon bread friendly, sweet bean paste cookies divine.
Once you’ve lived in Japan you start thinking some foods are normal, even when they’re undiscovered continents off your cultural radar. You see them every day–and repetition can penetrate even the dullest mind. Repetition can penetrate even the dullest mind. (Hehe.) Things that visitors would stop and take a picture of don’t faze you. A yakisoba sandwich? Tried one of those. Meh…
Panya are usually conveniently located by stations and in most supermarkets. They’re a go-to option for a quick meal. I used to eat at my local panya several times a week before realizing I was spending entirely too much on lunch.
Soon I found another panya in a local supermarket that sold curry naan for 100 yen and a chicken sandwich for 160. It’s a filling lunch for 260 yen, to which I have recently had to do without. One thing about Japanese panya that does get on my nerves is that you can’t always count on the food you like to be there. Just when you get used to getting your favorite from the store it will just disappear, for no reason. “Poof,” gone. Panya product rotation can be a royal pain. They keep the staple items, but that’s it.
You’re favorite will be back in a few weeks or months, but in the meantime you’ll have to do without. Some of it’s seasonal, but other times it just seemed like the staff chose to kill off an item because it was its time to die.
Anyway, I digress. Panya have a wide selection of single items to combine into a meal. Half a grilled ham and cheese sandwich for around 160 yen, one slice of Japanese pizza for the same, a chicken pita sandwich for around 250 yen–you’ve got a decent lunch for the price of a value meal at McDonald’s. Extra if you want dessert.
Panyas are good things, especially if you’re not in the mood for Japanese food. It happens. Sometimes when you crave a taste of home sushi just won’t do. When you need a “home fix,” panya are there.
Or if you don’t, they have quality Japanese style sweets worth trying. Check one out.