This bento is hard to find, but once you do, it’s worth eating!

Once upon a time, long, long ago, our Japanese-language reporter Go Hatori backpacked around the world. During that time, he spent two weeks in Egypt, where every day he ate an Egyptian dish known as koshary. Made of a mixture of lentils, rice, and noodles and topped with a spiced tomato sauce, it’s a staple of Egyptian cuisine and a popular street food.

Though Go made a habit of eating it during his time in Egypt, he hasn’t really gotten a taste of it since, so when he found out the Japanese supermarket called Lopia actually sells it, he was pretty stoked. “What?!” he cried when he found out. “I have to try it!”

The problem is, not every Lopia sells koshary. Go actually had to call three different branches before he found one that did. Excited to revisit his backpacking years, Go made his way to the Kodaira branch of Lopia on the western outskirts of the Tokyo metropolitan area at just about opening time.

Once inside he dashed to the bento aisle, and there it was!

Officially called “Mix it and Eat it, Egypt’s Most Popular Koshary”, Lopia’s koshary sold for 599 yen (US$4.01). The package even had directions for how to eat it, so it looked like they put a lot of thought into it. However…

It was nothing like the koshary that Go remembered.

Anyone who’s ever eaten koshary in Egypt will probably notice, but it looked completely unlike koshary. For example, what Go used to eat looked like this…

Or like this.

Still, Go wasn’t upset about it. It’s natural for a dish to evolve when introduced to a new country, and besides, however much this bento might not look like the koshary Go remembered, it might still taste like koshary, and if that was the case, he wouldn’t mind at all. Go quickly snatched one up, and then spent about 30 minutes looking around the store.

When he circled back to the bento table…

The koshary bento were gone! It seems like they’re a pretty popular Lopia product, so if you want to try it, make sure to head over when the store opens, otherwise you might miss them.

To prepare the koshary from Lopia, you’re supposed to warm it in a 500-watt microwave for three minutes and 30 seconds, pour over the tomato sauce, mix it, add the crunchy noodles, and then drizzle some lemon sauce on it and mix it all together again.

Which is not like the koshary Go remembered at all! But it was still delicious. In fact, it was almost funny how delicious it was, despite being an entirely new kind of food. Go could easily understand why it sold out so fast.

The meat was really good, and so were the crispy noodles. He could understand why the lemon sauce was included, and the flavored rice was also a tasty touch. The whole concoction gave Go the impression that it was intended to be koshary, but it took an entirely different route to get there. There’s Egyptian koshary, and then there’s this. He’ll call it “Lopian koshary”.

The biggest difference was the fact that Lopian koshary didn’t have nearly as much pasta, chickpeas, or lentils. The bento also had the faintest hint of Thai flavors, almost reminding Go of khao man gai, Thai-style chicken and rice.

Nevertheless, it was really tasty. Go thought Lopia had redesigned koshary so that anyone could enjoy it. It didn’t have any flavors or additions that would be surprising for Japanese palates. It was even something Japanese kids could eat.

Go loves to see how food evolves and is challenged in different environments, so this was an interesting experience. Of course, if you’re looking for real, authentic koshary, you’re better off going to an Egyptian restaurant, but Lopia’s koshary is good in its own way if you’re looking for a tasty meal. Go, certainly, would be happy to eat it again.

The only trouble is that it can be somewhat hard to find since it isn’t sold at every Lopia, and appears to sell out fast where it is sold. But don’t worry, you won’t go home hungry; Lopia also offers the mega bento–which is heavier than a newborn baby–so if you happen to stop by there and can’t find the koshary bento, that’s a good substitute!

Shop information
Lopia (Kodaira branch) / ロピア(小平店)
Address: Tokyo-to, Kodaira-shi, Josuihonmachi 4-22-1
Open 9 a.m.-7 p.m.

Images © SoraNews24
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