We taste test both offerings from Japan’s gyudon god, and find a key difference.

A little over a month ago, we found out that Yoshinoya, Japan’s most popular beef bowl restaurant chain, also offers its flagship dish in a canned version. That’s not the only way to enjoy Yoshinoya in a convenient, long-term-storable format, though.

Yoshinoya also sells frozen gyudon, as beef bowls are called in Japanese. Well, technically the pouches contain gyudon toppings of simmered sliced beef and onions, and you supply your own rice. The company boasts that the contents are flash frozen immediately after cooking, helping to preserve the flavor customers know and love from their experiences eating inside Yoshinoya restaurants across Japan.

To test that claim, we decided to compare the frozen Yoshinoya to an order of gyudon toppings (yes, you can order them without the rice) which we picked up to-go from a local Yoshinoya branch.

Obviously, the first thing we had to do was heat up the frozen beef bowl toppings, which you do by placing the pouch inside a pot of boiling water for five minutes. One that was done, we laid out both the frozen and restaurant-bought Yoshinoya on identical plates, and saw that the ingredient themselves look pretty similar.

In the above photo, the restaurant-bought Yoshinoya is on the left, while the frozen version is on the right. The frozen version does have noticeably more marinade/broth, though, and is a little lighter in color.

▼ Restaurant

▼ Frozen

Next, we put our two meals on a scale, learning that the restaurant version weighed in at 111 grams (3.9 ounces), while the frozen was a heftier 133 (inclusive of their identical plates). This is probably due to the extra marinade in the frozen gyudon toppings, but that doesn’t make the frozen Yoshinoya some sort of gyudon heretic, as some beef bowl gourmands will order their in-store meals with extra marinade.

▼ Restaurant (left) vs. frozen (right)

Finally, it was time for the most important comparison: taste!

To adhere to proper protocol for beef bowls, we whipped up a batch of white rice to go with our two types of toppings, and to start at the conclusion, they both tasted great, but in different ways.

▼ Restaurant

The restaurant Yoshinoya has a mellower favor with a lighter finish. Its meat is also the tenderer of the two.

▼ Frozen

On the other hand, the frozen Yoshinoya, once again probably owing to the extra marinade, has a richer, more impactful flavor, with meat that’s a touch firmer.

But again, either one makes for a satisfying meal, and we’re happy to say that the frozen version delivers on the promise of being able to enjoy Yoshinoya even if you don’t have a branch anywhere near where you live.

Yoshinoya’s frozen gyudon toppings are available through the company’s official online shop here, priced at 2,480 yen (US$23) for a five-pouch set, and our shipping came to 900 yen, giving us a total of 3,380. That works out to 676 yen per serving, which is more than the 330 yen the restaurant topping order costs, but there’s one other important number to keep in mind: 365, the number of days the frozen version will keep, meaning that for a whole year you’ll always have Yoshinoya waiting for you in your freezer.

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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he was startled the first time he walked into a Japanese Yoshinoya branch and saw that they don’t have teriyaki beef on the menu.

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