Chocolate ichigo daifuku
Tucked under one of Northwest Center’s blue awnings at 6105 Burnet is a wormhole called Asahi Imports that carries you across the Pacific and into a Japanese convenience store just a step off a random Tokyo side street. Austin’s original and sole Japanese-only market has all the foodstuffs, chopsticks, teacups, candies, and cat culture you would expect (30,000 items in all!), but it also has The Onigiri Corner. Beginning in 2013, Asahi started selling onigiri—compressed triangular rice volumes wrapped in seaweed paper with a savory filling—a rice convenance tool popular in Japan since before the invention of chopsticks. Asahi’s onigiri was so popular that the store dedicated a small corner to a small army of Japanese ladies churning out not only onigiri but bento, korokke, inari, futomaki, daifuku, and sando, among other items.
The bentos are cute, flavorful, mildly adventurous (for a non-native), nutritious, and just enough for lunch (and just enough is exactly what I need these days…). Ahi tails cutely spring from the fried fish while the grilled saba (a meaty mackerel) lay proudly on a bed of greens with a small tomato and a few pods of edamame. Orange cubes of what turned out to be concoctions of yams also graced the bentos. We also took home a chocolate ichiga daifuku, also known as a strawberry mochi, a strawberry surrounded by rice wrapped in chocolate. In short, everything is artful, adorable, and delicious. True to convenience store form, they are take-out only with no on-site eating accommodation.
Asahi’s roots go back to Shigeko’s Imports on North Loop. In the 1980s, Shigeko’s name changed to Asahi and then moved to Burnet Road in 2003 (with a southern storefront recently opened down south). Family owned and now run by the third generation, it truly is a family business and a hella fun place to visit.
Asahi Imports, asahiimports.com, (512) 453-1850; full-color review at austinwanderlist.com
Chocolate ichigo daifuku (pre-cut)
opening the onigiri…
grilled saba shioyaki bento
shrimp fry bento
aji fry bento