The convenience store treat (?) from Japan’s northern island is delicious…as long as you eat it the right way.

“So, how about you eat some tear gas?”

Not exactly words you expect, or want, your boss to say to you, but then again, SoraNews24 founder Yoshio isn’t really known for his ability to completely think assignments through before he starts handing them out. The immediate problem, of course, is that while you can find some pretty unusual stuff around our office, we do not, at least officially, have a stockpile of tear gas, so I had to ask my boss what exactly he was talking about.

“Here, take a look at this,” he said, showing me the following tweet with a photo of some instant cup ramen in a convenience store.

“This is the edible tear gas that people are talking about!” reads the sign underneath the shelf for Yamawasabi Shio Ramen, which is loaded with wasabi and comes with a warning that young children and people unaccustomed to spicy foods should be extremely cautious of it. If “tear gas” sounds like an odd analogy to use to convince people to try your instant noodles, you’re right. “I don’t want to eat tear gas” reads the tweet’s text, and that’s a sentiment I agreed with.

Luckily, I had an out, since a closer look at the photo revealed that the tear gas ramen is a Secoma product. Secoma is the store brand of Seico Mart, the most popular convenience store chain on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. They don’t have many branches down here in the Tokyo area, and Yoshio didn’t want to splurge for a 12-pack through the Seico Mart online store, so I figured I was off the hook…until I stumbled across the Hokkaido Umai Mono Kan (“Delicious Hokkaido Things Shop”) in the Bay Quarter shopping center near Yokohama Station.

Inside are all sorts of specialty foods and drinks shipped down from Hokkaido, and sure enough, they had Secoma’s Yamawasabi Shio Ramen proudly on display.

As a matter of fact, they had whole crates of the stuff, priced at 171 yen (US$1.55) a cup.

▼ According to the sign, it’s a big seller.

Part of being a professional eat-stuff-in-Japan guy is that sometimes you get to eat Final Fantasy-themed desserts, and sometimes you have to eat tear gas. So I paid for my cup and brought it home to eat, figuring that if I was going to potentially have tear gas emanating from my body, I should be in the confines of my apartment, not out in public, when it happened.

The package’s English text calls it the “Horseradish Sio Ramen,” going with an unorthodox Romanization of the Japanese word shio/”salt,” as Seico Mart promises a broth with both spicy and salty sensations.

Peeling back the lid, I found the packet of broth base powder, and that’s the only seasoning pack you have to work with. Some instant ramens make you add all sorts of separate oils and seasonings, but this one pouch alone contains the ingredients that make the tear gas magic happen, since the noodles themselves don’t have any wasabi in their dough.

You’re supposed to just tear open the packet, sprinkle the powder on the noodles and then pour hot water into the cup to cook them. I wanted to see what the tear gas powder base looked like before it got dissolved, though, so I poured it onto a plate. I was expecting a bright wasabi-like green color, so I was pretty startled when it turned out to be a light beige instead.

Another surprise came when I put some on a spoon and lifted it up to check its smell. Again, I expected a sharp, sinus-clearing wasabi note but instead it had an aroma like fish stock, suggesting some seafood elements in the broth.

▼ Huh…

Well maybe this won’t be so spicy after…


Nope. It may not look like wasabi, It may not smell like wasabi. But boy, does it taste like wasabi.

Of course, Seico Mart didn’t plan on anyone eating the straight powder, and the real taste test can’t start until the broth and noodles are cooked. So I dumped the powder into the cup, filled it with hot water, and waited three minutes.

Again, nothing about the way they look screams “Wasabi!” The noodles aren’t green, and neither is the broth.

And now it was time for the Yamawasabi Shio Ramen’s next surprise: once the powder is dissolved into the broth, it’s no longer punishingly spicy. Yes, it’s got a very powerful kick by Japanese noodle standards, but calling the flavor “tear gas” seems like a bit of an exaggeration. Honestly, as long as you don’t dislike the baseline favor of wasabi itself, they’re really tasty!

Now feeling secure that the ramen wasn’t going to incapacitate me, I started quickly working my way through the noodles and down towards the bottom of the cup. But as I lifted the container up to my face and leaned in for another bite…

…I suddenly learned that this really is worthy of the name “tear gas ramen,” just not in the way I’d expected.

While the cooked broth isn’t unbearably fiery on the taste buds, the spice remnants in the steam that comes off of it will scorch your eyes without mercy, almost like it’s got some kind of personal beef with you.

So in the end, it really is the gaseous portion of the eating experience where the tear gas ramen lives up to its name. That said, it’s still really tasty stuff, and definitely worth putting in your belly as long as you can keep it out of your eyes.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he also highly recommends Seico Mart’s chocolate chip cookies, if you can find them.