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Coco Ichibanya rolls out a new curry roux in select locations to better serve its health-conscious and non-Japanese clientele.

Curry is one of Japan’s favorite comfort foods, and you can find restaurants specializing in the spicy dish all over the country. Few of them do it as well as CoCo Ichibanya, though.

The Aichi Prefecture-based curry chain has been winning hearts and stomachs for over 30 years now, and while it’s stayed true to its roots by continuing to offer amazingly tasty curry at very affordable prices, that doesn’t mean that CoCo Ichi (as it’s commonly called in Japan) is unwilling to adapt in response to the wants and needs of its evolving customer base. CoCo Ichi was one of the first chain restaurants in Japan to provide its entire menu in multiple languages for the benefit of non-Japanese-reading diners, and now, largely in response to the dietary preferences and religious customs of foreign customers, it’s adding a true vegetarian curry to its menu.

While CoCo Ichi has always offered vegetable curry toppings, with options including potatoes, carrots, spinach, and eggplant, the roux itself always had stewed chunks of either pork or beef in it. To better accommodate strict vegetarian diners, last year the chain test-marketed a new roux that uses no animal products whatsoever in a few Tokyo branches. The response was so positive that the company has now decided to make the vegetarian curry a permanent part of the menu at 112 branches, roughly one-tenth of the number of restaurants it operates nationally.

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Since CoCo Ichi’s regular pork and beef roux varieties get some of their flavor from the meat simmering in them, the vegetarian curry ups the amount of spice and onion, which should keep it as flavorful (and pungent) as the non-vegetarian kinds. A plate of plain vegetarian curry and rice will be priced at 500 yen (US$4.50), slightly more than the chain’s standard pork curry (442 yen) but less expensive than its premium beef curry (597 yen). And as with all of CoCo Ichi’s curry plates, you can add any of the menu’s toppings that you want for an additional fee.

▼ Vegetarian curry roux with tomato and asparagus (706 yen)

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Depending on the vegetarian curry’s popularity, CoCo Ichi may expand its availability past the initial 112 locations that will be serving it. And don’t worry, because CoCo Ichi’s regular pork and beef curries are still on the menu. As a matter of fact, if you’re feeling conflicted about your carnivorous cravings, you can even order a plate of vegetarian curry, then top it with 90 bucks worth of deep-fried pork cutlets.

The complete list of Coco Ichibanya locations serving the vegetarian curry can be found here, and includes the Akihabara Showadori, Roppongi, Shinjuku Station West Exit, Tobu Asakusa, Shimokitazawa, and Ikebukuro Sunshine City Alpa branches.

Follow Casey on Twitter, and maybe the two of you can go grab some curry next time you’re in Tokyo.

Source: Coco Ichibanya via Asahi Shimbun via Otakumu
Top image: Coco Ichibanya