Photo by Shoji Kudaka

Photo by Shoji Kudaka ()

In Japan, pouched ready-made curries are a popular item at grocery stores for busy people with little time to prepare a hot home-cooked meal. Today, sales of these pouches are steaming since COVID-19 is drawing more to stay in and seek out convenient comfort foods that aren’t difficult to make.

Even if you are not a fan of curry, perhaps the convenience of these pouched versions is something that may entice you to give them a try.

Most of the packages stocked at the grocery stores and convenience store aisles require just heating the pouch in hot water for a few minutes or simply popping them into the microwave. Smother over fresh steamed rice or even the microwaveable rice packs also available down the aisle and, in less than 10 minutes - voila! — curry rice!

Commonly known as “retort curry,” pouched curry sauce was invented in Japan in 1968, according to food company Otsuka Foods. About half a century later, this convenient food has evolved tremendously. Although it started under the concept “a curry sauce which can be heated up in the water and which doesn’t fail anybody,” pouched curry now seeks to even please foodies and curious minds. Some of them replicate the flavors of famous restaurants, while others feature signature foods of local cities.

Pouched curries remind me of my college days, as this comfort food was a decent meal at an affordable price. Though I no longer rely on pouched versions, they still take me back to the old days.

Below are five great options you can find at most supermarkets and convenience stores around Japan. Give these a try next time you’re looking for a nice homestyle meal made in the fraction of the time and a fraction of the price of what you’ll get at a restaurant.

5. Ginza Curry

Bearing the name of the upscale shopping area of Tokyo, this product is intended to bring back the taste of a British-style curry sauce first served up in 1930. Based on demiglace sauce, this one has a well-seasoned flavor and rich aroma.

4. Marugoto Yasai Nasuto Kanjuku Tomato no Kare (Curry with ripe tomatoes and a whole set of veggies)

As its name suggests, this curry sauce is meant to let you enjoy the juicy taste of tomato and various kinds of vegetables. Among a variety of vegetable, the eggplant slices in this pouch add a nice touch to the mixture. And, with only 155 calories per pack, this will be a good choice if you are looking for something healthy.

3. Kukure Curry

Other curries may come and go, but this one has stood the test of time since its launch in 1971. The unique name comes from the word “cookless.” Known for mild flavor, this is a good choice even kids will enjoy.

2. Bon Curry

This was the very first pouched curry sauce that was launched in 1968. Its name, which is a mixture of the French word “bon (good)” and “curry,” is still considered a standard for pouched curry. Since its launch, Bon Curry has evolved into seven product lines, which amount to 15 kinds of curry sauce, including “Bon Curry Neo” and “Bon Curry Gold.” However, the standard “Bon Curry” is still my favorite from this brand.

1. Lee

If you’re looking to spice up your life, pick up the Lee brand curry. Normally pouched curry offers a few options such as sweet, medium, and spicy, but Lee offers versions in “10x spicier” and “20x spicier” than normal curry sauce. Though Lee doesn’t package “normal spicy” curry, their Spice Chicken Curry is seven times spicier, making it the least spicy of this brand’s offerings.

*All the curry sauces listed above costs around 100 to 250 yen ($0.80 to $1.90) per pack. Prices can change depending upon each supermarket and convenience store.

The best stories from the Pacific, in your inbox

Sign up for our weekly newsletter of articles from Japan, Korea, Guam, and Okinawa with travel tips, restaurant reviews, recipes, community and event news, and more.

Sign Up Now