Ground control to Major Tom… Take your Karaage-kun and put your helmet oooonnnnn…

In February of 2017, after repeated requests from Japanese astronauts that some meat would really be nice while on space missions, convenience store chain Lawson set out on a three-year mission: to explore strange new frying techniques, to seek out new batter and new seasonings, to boldly go where no store-brand fried chicken has gone before.

▼ In honor of their new mission, Lawson flew the Karaage-kun mascot into the stratosphere that same year

Among the many regulations set by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the most daunting challenge for Lawson’s beloved Karaage-kun line of fried chicken was the 11-month shelf life. Not only that, but in order to be fully certified as space food, a product must remain safe to eat after a year and a half of storage.

▼ I get antsy leaving them out for 11 minutes let alone 11 months

Image: ©SoraNews24

For much of 2017, Lawson consulted the Tsukuba Space Center and developed their freeze-drying technique. The following year saw fine-tuning to their recipe and in August of 2018, Space Karaage-kun passed the initial screening process.

While freeze-drying helped Space Karaage-kun extend its lifespan, it also presented a new problem of how to eat it. Technology to deep-fry in space has been developed, but Lawson found that doing so to Space Karaage left them mushy and the batter uneven. They also tried regular frying, which resulted in a crispier texture but brought a new problem of floating crumbs.

So in the end, Lawson opted to make Space Karaage-kun into a bite-sized snack that could be eaten as-is. While that’s quite a departure from the straight-out-of-the-warmer goodness that Karaage-kun is known for, it was the best overall compromise.

After a few months of final preparations, Space Karaage-kun was ready to go into deep storage. Eleven months later, it was granted “pre-approval” for having survived the specified shelf life in October of 2019. Finally, on 8 June, 2020, Space Karaage-kun that had been sitting around for a year and a half was tested to still be hygienic and therefore deemed suitable as an official space food.

The certification led to a lot of buzz online.

“They got Karaage-kun in space now?!”
“Since it’s just fried chicken, I think people from other countries can enjoy it too.”
“Karaage-kun isn’t that great.”
“Do Famichiki next!”
“It’s not really ‘fried’ though, is it?”
“They should sell these as a food for disaster kits too.”
“Karaage-kun can get pretty smelly. Is it OK in small spaces?”

And so, after having been found to possess the right stuff for space consumption, Karaage-kun joins the lofty ranks of Kaki No Tani rice crackers. Together, these snacks will provide vital emotional support to the next wave of brave pioneers to visit the International Space Station. And in the not-so-far-fetched event that Katy Perry takes a trip out there someday, she’ll be all set too.

Source: Lawson 1, 2, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Wikipedia/U.S. govt. (edited by SoraNews24)
Insert images: Lawson (unless otherwise noted)
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