This instant curry costs more than restaurant varieties, but we can think of at least one scenario where it’d be money well spent.

It’s said that there are over 3,000 varieties of instant, or “retort,” curry on sale in Japan. Convenience is often a big selling point, with most of the vacuum-sealed pouches of roux and toppings going for less than 500 yen (US$3.40), and sometimes you’ll come across fancy versions produced by famous restaurants or containing high-end ingredients that get up close to 1,000 yen in price.

But we got a major shock when we stumbled across a pack of instant curry that sells for 1,979 yen!

We found it while walking through Funabashi Station, proving that pretty much wherever you go in Japan, you’re not far from curry. Set up inside the station was a temporary stand calling itself the Retort Curry Museum, boasting that its inventory contained some of the rarest types of instant curry on the market.

More than any of the others, the one that intrigued us was the Osaka Kiwami Curry, kiwami meaning “extreme” or “ultimate.”

At six to seven times the cost of normal retort curry, we wondered what made this one so special. According to its producer, Osaka curry restaurant Yokoo, their owner/chef spent five years scouring Osaka for the highest-quality locally sourced ingredients to use in the Osaka Kiwami Curry, eventually deciding on:

● Osaka Naniwa Pork
● Osaka Ume Beef
● Katashimo Wine
● Senshu Onions
● Sakai Taka no Tsume Peppers

Those are far from the only intriguing entries in the ingredient list, though, which also includes banana purée, honey, grated garlic, and coriander.

While some retort curries allow you to pour the pouch’s contents onto a plate and microwave them, many higher-end varieties insist that you place the unopened pouch in a pot of boiling water to cook. That’s the case with Osaka Kiwami Curry, which says to boil the pouch for five to seven minutes.

When it was ready, we scooped the pouch back up out of the pot, opened it up, and added the roux to a plate of white rice that we’d cooked separately.

Taste-testing duties fell to our Japanese-language reporter Kouhey, who felt oddly nervous before his first bite. 1,979 yen is a lot even for an order of restaurant curry rice, so he felt just a little out of his element eating something so presumably gourmet.

He started with a spoonful of just the roux, and was immediately impressed. “As far as the spiciness goes, this is what we’d call ‘medium-spicy’ here in Japan. But even for someone like me, I could tell how deep and complex the flavor is. It takes a few seconds for the full depth of flavor to kick in, but from the first bite I could tell there are two levels of flavor here. Even at this point, it’s clear that this is on a different level than other retort curries.”

Next, a spoonful of roux and rice together. “This, of course, is delicious.”

Now it was time to try the Osaka Ume Beef. “I knew this was going to be good, but it gets even better as you chew it, to the point where I was asking ‘It’s still getting better?!?’ as the beefy flavor spilled out. I honestly think that if someone made a chewing gum that tasted like this, it’d be a huge seller.”

On to the Osaka Naniwa Pork. “Hmm…I can get the sense that this is high-quality pork, and while it too gets more flavorful as you chew it, I think I’d have liked to see what this pork tastes like without curry.”

The Senshu Onions were terrifically sweet, melting in Kouhey’s mouth. All together, it was like a symphony of flavors forming beautiful music for his taste buds. It’s the kind of curry that’s so good you’ll diligently scrape every last drop from the plate with your spoon.

But now for the 1,979-yen question: Is Osaka Kiwami Curry worth the price? It’s hard to say. On the one hand, it was, without question, delicious, on a whole other level than normal retort curry. On the other hand, that’s still a lot to pay for curry, especially if you’ve got to supply your own rice too.

In the end, Kouhey doesn’t think he’ll be making Osaka Kiwami Curry a regular part of his meal rotation, but he’s still very glad that he ate it. Yokoo actually recommends Osaka Kiwami Curry as a present, and that might just be the best way to enjoy it, as an occasional taste of luxury that you aren’t personally footing the bill for.

Related: Osaka Kiwami Curry at Yokoo online shop
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[ Read in Japanese ]