Umai Crate Subscription Box Review + Coupon – January 2019
My Subscription Addiction paid for this box. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes).
About Umai Crate
The Subscription Box: Umai Crate
The Cost: $30 a month + free shipping
The Products: 7-8 Japanese-exclusive instant noodle dish + a bonus collectible
Ships to: Worldwide
Umai Crate January 2019 Review
This month’s Umai Crate booklet lists each of the items with a quick description, cooking instructions, and recommended add-ins. This is super helpful to review before and during taste testing. There is also a recipe card for yakimochi, but no mochi included in the box. This is peculiar, as the recipe cards typically feature ingredients included in the box. Hmm.
Anyway, grab a glass of water and let’s get to noodling!
Small Fried Shrimp Soup Soba
Although I’m not usually excited about seafood noodles, this shrimp soba had my attention. According to the booklet, the broth is called tsuyu. It consists of dashi soup stock, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar, and is a thinner version of the dipping sauce typically served with cold soba. At the top, you can see bits of fried shrimp and generous pieces of seaweed. There were some small fish cakes in there, too. The noodles had a classic soba flavor which I liked, and the broth lived up to the intrigue. The major con of this one was the tempura coating coming off the shrimp and floating into the broth, leaving a bunch of oddly crunchy (like shell-still-on crunchy), naked shrimp with a pungent flavor. It wasn’t my favorite of the month, but it’s also not the worst I’ve ever had.
“My Friend” Big Tanuku Udon
This udon is named after Tanuki, a mischievous and jolly raccoon from Japanese folklore. I love jolly raccoons! And udon! Right off the bat, these noodles seemed like they were a great fit for me. The super-sized bowl was something I haven’t seen since I lived in China one million years ago, and after a long day away from home, I was more than ready to dig in. The toppings included tenkatsu, which are tempura pieces. Pieces of what? Aside from seaweed, I don’t know, but they were delicious. The noodles were creamy with a soft bite, and the broth was perfectly savory with a touch of spice. This one certainly made up for the crunchy, naked shrimp debacle from the previous bowl.
Ginger and Vegetable Bean Noodles for Hot Pot
I had no idea instant glass noodles were even a thing! I absolutely love them in all forms. The translucent noodles in this cup are made from beans and potato and are accompanied by kelp, bonito, shiitake mushrooms, and ginger. While pouring hot water over the noodles and the flavor packets, it smelled vaguely like Chinese medicine, but that was probably the impact of the ginger. The broth was given a bit of lightness from the ginger, along with a tiny bit of spice to complement the other salty, umami flavors. I’ve never had instant noodles quite so unique, and I highly recommend giving these a try. They’re an interesting (and delicious) departure from your typical instant noodles.
Admittedly, I had some reservations about Japanese spaghetti. I’ve been to a few Japanese-Italian fusion restaurants in Asia before, and the food was generally pretty delicious. However, there was just something about spaghetti in a package that gave me a bit of pause. Oh, how I sorely misjudged this dish. I cooked two handfuls of fresh spinach in 1 tablespoon of butter, sprinkled in some salt, pepper, and a little bit of garlic powder, then heated the noodles through while working to separate them with chopsticks, sprinkled in the tomato seasoning packet, and topped the final dish with a little bit of shredded mozzarella. It was so good! The tomato seasoning packet had a ton of robust flavor, and the noodles themselves were nice and chewy. The seasoning in place of a sauce was a great touch. Well done, Japan. This was unexpectedly fantastic.
Red Bean Soup
Red bean soup is a Japanese staple for New Years. I’ve had red bean soup before in my travels as a dessert following a big family-style meal, so it was a nice, nostalgic treat to see this in the box. To prepare, I filled a medium-sized pot 3/4 of the way with water, brought it to a boil, and tossed in the unopened package for about 5 minutes, until it was warmed all the way through. It doesn’t get much easier than that! As for the taste, it was nice and sweet with the perfect consistency—somewhere between soup and stew. I wish this had been one of the items that came with multiple servings because I’d definitely love to try this again. Umai Crate often times has items from previous boxes available for purchase on the Japan Crate shop, so I’ll keep my eyes peeled.
Kenko Foods Health Shio Ramen
This shio (or salt) ramen promised an enjoyable taste without the guilt. The guilt of what, I wonder—sodium? The booklet didn’t specify but given we’re in the realm of instant noodles, I felt sodium was a fair assumption. This one seemed a little on the plain side, so while boiling the noodles, I tossed in a few snow peas and some frozen corn, then topped the dish with sliced green onions when finished. The flavor was definitely on the light side—nearly flavorless—but that’s par for the course with the health-focused options Umai Crate occasionally sends. To really jazz it up, I sprinkled in some spicy shichimi seasoning from the September box, along with a little bit of garlic powder from last month’s box. That was the right move. This ramen was designed to be a canvas of sorts, making itself welcome to the addition of vegetables, protein, and seasonings, should you feel so inclined. With a few add-ins, this one was a-okay in my book.
Yuzu Pepper Nabe Base
The temperature plummeted into the single digits right in the middle of this review. This yuzu pepper nabe base claimed it’s perfect for such an occasion, so I decided to put it to the test. I used last month’s nabe soup base to host a hot pot for my friends (it was so fun!), so if you ever receive a nabe soup base from Umai Crate, I highly recommend grabbing some pals and hosting with it. For this nabe, I began by boiling 1 cup of water with the liquid packet. Once the soup had reached a full boil, I added in snow peas, chopped carrots, mushrooms, and red onion. There is a specific kind of pot use for nabe so you don’t have to stand over the stove and eat everything right out of the pot (this, for example), you know, like I did. Anyway, the simmered veggies had a tiny bit of spice to them, and a light soy flavor from the broth. Delicious! After plowing through the veggies—and quite a bit of the momiji oroshi paste from below—I added in the dry seasoning packet with about 2 more cups of water, brought it to a boil again, then tossed in the Chinese noodles. Nabe is usually meant to be enjoyed in two parts, and I really relished them both.
As you probably read above, I cooked these noodles in the yuzu nabe soup stock for two minutes, per the directions on the booklet. Regrettably, I used the entire packet when I should have used half, maybe even 1/3. Possibly 1/4. What was I thinking? Regardless, they had a decent bite to them, and they soaked up the seasoned broth very nicely.
Bonus Item – Momiji Oroshi Paste
I wasn’t sure what to expect from a paste made from Japanese radish (daikon) and spicy pepper paste, so the zesty, flavorful quality certainly took me by surprise. It was a really nice accompaniment to the vegetables in my nabe!
Verdict: This month’s Umai Crate was very enjoyable! My favorite was a tie between the glass noodles and the Tanuki udon, and although the shrimp soba was my least favorite, I still didn’t mind it all that much. With an average cost of $3.75 per item—with some items containing multiple servings and a bonus item—this box was once again worth it for me.
To Wrap Up:
Can I still get this box if I sign up today? No, you will receive the February box.
Coupon – Use code MSA3 to save $3 off your first Japan Crate Premium, Doki Doki Crate, Umai Crate, or Kira Kira Crate.
Value Breakdown: This box is $30 a month with free shipping. I received five instant noodle packages, one pack of Chinese-style noodles, one pack of red bean soup, and a 3-pack of nabe soup stock, which come to an average of $3.75 per item.
Check out all of the Umai Crate Reviews to get more information on this subscription.
What was your favorite bowl from the January Umai Crate? Do you have any go-to add-ins for instant noodles?