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Ironically, two of Japan’s go-to choices for a hot, satisfying meal came from overseas. Ramen is Chinese in origin, and curry came to Japan from India via contact with the British Navy.

Deciding between the two dishes can be a difficult task, which is where curry ramen, noodles floating in a curry broth, comes in. Until now, though, trying to have the best of both worlds meant giving up on the chance to eat the offerings of Japan’s most popular curry chain, CoCo Ichi. But with a new team-up between the beloved chain and instant noodle maker Ace Cook, not only can you dine on CoCo Ichi curry ramen and udon, but you don’t even have to leave the house to do so.

The two varieties don’t just use different types of noodles, but differently flavored broths as well. For ramen lovers, there’s the Tomakara Curry Ramen, with tomato accents, whereas the Dashiburi Curry Udon uses bonito stock and broader noodles. At just 146 yen (US$1.40) each they’re extremely affordable, while at the same time quite a bit bigger than an ordinary cup of instant noodles.

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We decided to start with the udon, figuring we’d save the more heavily flavored tomato ramen for later. The package comes festooned with the CoCo Ichi logo, as well as the restaurant’s slogan, “Good smell. Good curry.”

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▼ Always more welcome to our tongues and noses than “Bad smell. Good natto.”

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Surprisingly, the instructions deviate from the near-universal three-minutes usually required to cook cup ramen, instead indicating to let the noodles steep for five minutes. In light of this, we feel the term “instant udon” is a bit of a misnomer, and feel they should instead be classified as, “they’ll-still-be-ready-before-you-can-actually-cook-anything-else-udon.”

We peeled back the cover, taking care not to go past the marked red arrow. Inside we found three packets, one with the broth powder, another with toppings of green onions and small flakes of meat, and a third with additional spices.

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▼ Clockwise from top: Toppings, broth powder, spices

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As per the directions, we started by pouring in the toppings. Next up was the broth powder. As expected, the bonito stock lent it a bit of a fish-like aroma, but it mainly smells like curry powder.

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Now it was time to add the hot water and enjoy an extra two-minutes of self-contemplation as we waited for the noodles to cook.

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▼ Five minutes later

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Once they were ready, it was time for the final step, adding the contents of the extra spice pouch, which were essentially the cayenne-pepper like shichimi, which is a popular condiment for udon.

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Visually, there’s not a whole lot going on with the curry udon’s final form. The little flakes of meat from the topping packet seemed to have completely dissolved. In terms of smell, though, there was no mistaking this for ordinary udon, as peeling off the cover filled the room with the scent of curry. We grabbed a mouthful of noodles with our chopsticks and took a bite.

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If you’re looking for spiciness, you won’t be disappointed, as it’s definitely present, although it hits more at the top of the throat than the mouth or tongue.

The bonito flavor isn’t quite as pronounced as we’d imagined after taking a whiff of the broth powder, but it’s still there. Unfortunately, the broth doesn’t really have much in the way of the rich sweetness that makes the curry at CoCo Ichi’s restaurants such a crowd pleaser. In its place, there’s a lot of saltiness, which makes the CoCo Ichi curry udon taste a little more like what you’d expect from a less distinguished curry maker.

Setting aside the question of whether or not they live up to their pedigree, though, it was still a tasty bowl of udon, and before long we’d polished off all of our noodles.

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Now it was time for round two, the spicy tomato ramen. In contrast to the flat udon, this uses very thin cylindrical noodles.

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Once again, there are three packets inside the bowl. In addition to the green onions and meat, the spicy tomato topping pouch also includes a bit of cabbage and red pepper. Without the fish stock, the scent of the broth powder here is all about the spices, with cumin and anise-like notes.

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▼ The ramen only takes three minutes, so if you’re looking to maximize your eating efficiency, this is the way to go.

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The spice pack here is a mix of chili and tomato, with the latter giving it just a touch of tanginess. We say “just a touch” because it was hard to notice it while the spiciness of the broth was assaulting the bottom of our tongue and the roof of our mouth. The CoCo Ichi curry ramen is easily twice as fiery as the udon, and while once again we didn’t taste anything particularly evocative of how the restaurant ordinarily prepares its signature dish, the level of spice here made sure we wouldn’t forget the ramen’s flavor anytime soon.

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As a matter of fact, it’s so spicy that it creates a bit of a problem. For many ramen fans, polishing off the broth after eating all the noodles puts a joyous period on their dining experience, but without any starches to counteract all that spice, we now had two containers of leftover broth.

Of course, the other way of looking at this was that we now had two tubs of curry. Since it’d be a waste to dump them both down the drain, we decided to bust out our rice cooker and remix our dinner.

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Really, we’re surprised at the oversight by CoCo Ichi and Ace Cook’s marketing department in forgetting to tell us that each cup of curry ramen or udon also comes with half of the ingredients for a cheap bowl of curry rice.

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Photos: RocketNews24