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Instant Meals From Japan:
Top Five Heat ’n’ Eat Curries



Fast, cheap, and delicious, it’s not surprising that many tourists like to buy instant foods as souvenirs from Japan. But with so many types available (and packages written almost entirely in Japanese), how do you know which to choose? To give you an idea of where to start, the editorial staff of DiGJAPAN! reviewed different kinds of instant food stuffs in a taste test. First up was heat 'n' eat curries!

A total of six of our staff participated in the taste test: Farng from Thailand, Iki from Taiwan, Yayu from China, Rachael from the U.S., Jeongyeon from South Korea, and Chiharu from Japan.

Our staff picks from a lineup of curries from all across Japan!

Let the taste test begin! In addition to typical curry ingredients like beef and vegetables, there were curries made with different types of seafood and even fruit curries! Of course, each one claims to be delicious. There were also curries of the go-tōchi mono variety. These are curries that feature the local specialties of specific regions (go-tōchi). Our staff had a hard time choosing!

DIGJAPAN! staff picks from a lineup of curries_1

Can you judge a curry by its cover? Our staff closely examines the packages and makes predictions about how the curries will taste.

DIGJAPAN! staff picks from a lineup of curries_2

No cooking skills required here! Just place the foil package as is in boiling water to warm it up and then pour the curry over rice! You can also pour the curry on the rice first and then warm it up in a microwave.

DIGJAPAN! staff picks from a lineup of curries_3

Our staff's choices turn the table into a rainbow of different shades of curry.

DIGJAPAN! staff picks from a lineup of curries_4

“It’s important to check the aroma as well as the taste. The fruit curries have a really strong aroma, as do the seafood ones.” -- Yayu

DIGJAPAN! staff picks from a lineup of curries_5

“That curry was good, but this one is a little... “ Our staff took their taste testing jobs very seriously and judged the curries with a critical eye.

DIGJAPAN! staff picks from a lineup of curries_6

They also considered points like the quantity and size of the pieces of meat, veggies, and fruit in the curry as part of their thorough comparison.

Here are the DiGJAPAN! staff picks!

Here are the DiGJAPAN! staff picks!

A curry brimming with world famous Kobe beef!

Naruto Chidori Honpo_Ippai no Zeitaku Kobe-gyū Curry Product name: Kobe Gyū No Umami Ga Hirogaru Kobe Gyū Curry | 神戸牛の旨みが広がる 神戸牛カレー
Manufacturer: Naruto Chidori Honpo
Average retail price: ¥700~¥800

About this curry: This rich, beefy curry uses real Kobe beef, one of the “big three” names in the world of Japanese beef. Because the curry roux is simple, you can really appreciate the flavor and the tenderness of the beef.

Staff comment: It doesn’t look that different from your typical beef curry, but once you start eating you know it’s Kobe beef. It’s so tender it melts in your mouth. The curry roux has just the right amount of spiciness. Can I have some more? (laugh) -- Farng

The combo of curry and pollock roe has a surprisingly addictive texture!

Office Shin_Pirikarai Puchi-Puchi No Shokukan Hakata Mentaiko Curry Product name: Pirikarai Puchi-Puchi No Shokukan Hakata Mentaiko Curry | ピリ辛ぷちぷちの食感 博多明太子カレー
Manufacturer: Office Shin
Average retail price: ¥500~¥600

About this curry: This Fukuoka specialty isn’t just popular in Japan. It won the gold medal in the heat 'n' eat curry grand prix at FOODEX JAPAN 2014, the biggest food expo in Asia! The well-rounded flavor of this white curry sauce pairs beautifully with the mentaiko, or walleye pollock roe.

Staff comment: The mildness of the coconut milk goes really well with the spiciness of the pollock roe. The tiny fish eggs in the curry give it a fun texture. I really like it! -- Iki

Luxurious curry made with red king crab!

Takashima Shokuhin_Taraba Kani Curry Product name: Taraba Kani Curry | たらばかにカレー
Manufacturer: Takashima Shokuhin
Average retail price: ¥600~¥700

About this curry: This seafood curry is full of taraba kani (red king crab). The mouth-watering aroma of crab fills the air the moment you open the bag. It’s said that this product is particularly popular as a souvenir.

Staff comment: You can tell you’re eating real crab, which is really impressive for an instant food product. The pieces of vegetables also taste fresh. -- Rachael

And for something completely different, blue curry!

Bell Shokuhin_Krishna Okhotsk Ryūhō Curry Product name: Krishna Okhotsk Ryūhō Curry | クリシュナオホーツク流氷カリー
Manufacturer: Bell Shokuhin
Average retail price: ¥700~¥800

About this curry: This curry comes with blue and white curry sauce and chicken so you can recreate the majestic scenery of the Okhotsk Ryūhō (ice floe) at home for a meal! Pour some white sauce over the blue to recreate Hokkaido’s snowy shore and arrange your chicken “icebergs” as you like. The creation of this curry was supervised by a chef from India, so the flavor should be authentic despite the unusual appearance!

Staff comment: I was surprised by the blue color, but it actually tastes like Indian curry. It’s good! The white curry is like a nice cream sauce and the chicken is really tender. The color blue is supposed to be good for suppressing your appetite, so maybe this would be good for people trying to lose weight? (laugh) -- Iki

You’ll breathe fire after this super spicy curry!

Glico_Lee Karasa x 20 Bai Curry Product name: Lee Karasa x 20 Bai Curry | LEE辛さ×20倍カレー
Manufacturer: Ezaki Glico Co., Ltd
Average retail price: ¥200~¥300

About this curry: If you love super spicy food, then this curry is for you. It uses an original blend of spices which includes lots of coarsely ground chili pepper, giving this curry a deep and seriously spicy kick.

Staff comment: Koreans love spicy foods, but this is pushing it even for me. (laughs) It might take a little effort to get through one bowl, but people who love spicy foods should definitely give it a try! -- Jeongyeon

Special extra: what about the fruit curries??

The fruit curry (Top left) Wakayama Kominami Nōen No Mikan Curry from Kominami Nōen (和歌山小南農園のみかんカレー) | Fruit: mikan orange | Average retail price: ¥648
(Bottom left) Ibaraki No Melon Curry (茨城のメロンカレー) from Isoyama Shoji | Fruit: melon | Average retail price: ¥500~¥600
(Top right) Tokyo Kodaira San Blueberry Curry (東京小平産ブルーベリーカレー) from Tokyo Kajino | Fruit: blueberry | Average retail price: ¥500~¥600
(Bottom right) Ichigo No Curry (いちごのカレー) from Nagaiya | Fruit: strawberry | Average retail price: ¥500~¥600

About the fruit curries...
These curries use the famous fruits of different regions of Japan in their roux or include pieces of the fruit in the mix. Not only do they taste like fruit, the mikan curry has a cheery orange color and the strawberry curry has a slightly pinkish color. All of these curries had a fruity sweetness balanced by a slight sourness. The concept might be a little strange, but you should give these a try at least once!

Staff comment: The color and the ingredients really make these curries stand out. It’s kind of funny. They were all pretty good, but I think I liked the mikan orange curry the best. -- Jeongyeon

※ Actual appearance of the products featured may vary.
※ Curries do not come with rice.
※ Prices of featured products may vary by store. Please use the prices listed here as a general reference.

See something you liked?

What did you think of our staff’s choices? While tastes vary from person to person, we hope that you’ve found at least one that looks good to you! You can find these curries at major grocery stores throughout Japan, so consider picking some up if you need a quick dinner while traveling or want to share the flavors of Japan with some curry as a souvenir!

But Japan’s love of instant food doesn’t end with heat 'n' eat curry. Next time, we’ll be testing popular types of “just add water” freeze dried meals like instant ramen and miso soup. See you then!


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