Self-heating gyudon is half science experiment, half magical alchemy…but how does it taste?

It’s no secret that gyudon beef bowls are one of Japan’s favourite comfort foods, and our Japanese-language reporters have eaten a lot of them over the years, ranging from humble cans right up to ultra luxurious varieties.

So when we heard about an unusual gyudon that cooks itself in a box without the need for water or any traditional heating equipment, our reporters, who’d thought they’d seen it all, jumped on the chance to try it straight away.

Being well-seasoned in all things gyudon, it takes a lot for a beef bowl to stand out for our team, but this self-heating variety created a lot of buzz around the office when it arrived for its taste test.

▼ It came packaged in a box that read: Rescue Foods Gyudon Single Meal Set.

Living in a disaster-prone country like Japan means households stock up on long-shelf-life foods to keep in their emergency bags, and that’s exactly what this meal is designed for. With a shelf-life of two years or more, this product can easily be stored away in an emergency bag along with staples like instant rice and noodles, but what sets this meal apart from other emergency meals is the fact that you don’t need access to any water or traditional heating methods to eat it. 

▼ Everything you need to make piping hot gyudon is included in the package.

Inside the box we found a pack of white rice, beef bowl “sauce” ingredients, a plastic spoon, a wet napkin, a plastic bag, and an exothermic agent and exothermic solution, to generate heat. 

The instructions on the box were as follows:

1. Remove the exothermic agent from the package and place it in the bottom of the plastic bag

2. Add food

3. After confirming that the exothermic agent is at the bottom of the plastic bag, place the whole bag in the box.

4. Pour the exothermic solution into the bag and tightly close the seal on the bag.

After following those four simple steps, all that’s left to do is wait and watch the magic. The exothermic agent is just like a heat pack, or “kairo” as they’re known in Japan, which heats up on its own to keep hands and bodies warm in winter. It certainly doesn’t reach boiling point, though, so we couldn’t help but wonder if this was actually going to heat the meat properly, and let’s face it — nobody likes the idea of eating lukewarm meat from a box.

We needn’t have worrried, though, because within moments the liquid inside the bag began bubbling with such force that steam starting jetting out from it. The level of steam being emitted was on par with what you’d see when cooking a pot of rice.

That’s when we became concerned about whether or not the box would be able to withstand the heat and moisture being generated, but the cardboard actually works to help insulate the heat.

▼ The cooking process was impressive to watch, and had us on the edge of our seats as it bubbled away.

We decided then and there that even if the meal didn’t end up tasting great, it had been worth buying just to watch the magic of box-cooking. And while it’s great to watch, it’s easy to know when it’s ready to eat too, as the instructions say the pack will bubble for about 20 minutes, after which time you should let it sit for another 10 minutes to complete the cooking process.

▼ When it comes time to open the bag, the contents will be hot, so the supplied napkin should be used to remove them.

▼ Then all you have to do is open the packets, place the beef on the rice and it’s ready to eat!

Using the spoon provided, we picked up a good chunk of meat and were pleased to see shirataki noodles spread throughout the mix as well. In our eyes, that’s the sign of a good beef bowl, so we took a bite and…wow, it tasted just like…gyudon!

All the familiar, essential flavours were there, and what’s more, the salty sweet sauce was actually delicious, delivering a nice hit of beefy umami flavours to the taste buds. Emergency rations are usually known for being dry and bland, but this was neither of those — it was surprisingly moist and flavourful.

While this gyudon is designed for emergencies, it also makes a great “all-in-one lunch box” for busy workers or campers. Available at big supermarkets and online sites like Amazon and Rakuten, the Rescue Foods Gyudon Single Meal Set is priced at 874 yen (US$8.24) plus tax, and there are other options like Stew and Rice and Curry Rice in the range as well.

It’s a great idea to add flavourful meals like these to your emergency supply at home, and if you’re looking for more tasty options, this cup noodle rolling stock pack is another way to keep your spirits up in case of a disaster. Because having a hearty, delicious meal in a worst-case emergency shelter scenario is far more comforting for your stomach and soul than a bland bowl of rehydrated rice.

Photos © SoraNews24
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