Umai Crate by Japan Crate brings you Japanese-exclusive instant noodles each month. You'll receive a variety of instant noodles, soups, and sauces to try, along with a culinary bonus item!
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. Save with longer subscriptions.
ACTIVE DEAL: Save $3 off your first box
The Products: 8-10 Japanese-exclusive instant noodle dishes + a culinary bonus item.
Ships: Worldwide for free!
Umai Crate December 2019 Review
The Umai Crate booklet lists each of the items with a quick description, cooking instructions, and recommended add-ins. The translations aren't always accurate, but they generally get the job done. This is super helpful to review before you get started and while you're tasting everything. There is also a third card that explains 2 misprinted items still under consideration by the Umai Crate team that were ultimately not included in this box, plus a recipe card for Napolitan omu-noodles.
If you're down for some sodium-rich content, grab a glass of water and let's get into it.
Miyoza Kitsune Udon
The info booklet suggested enjoying these noodles on a busy night for a quick meal, which is exactly what I did. The broth was far more sophisticated than that of your average instant udon; it was the perfect mix of sweet and savory thanks to a blend of sake, mirin, soy sauce, kombu, and katsuobushi. The noodles had a nice bite to them, and the generously-sized tofu pieces were rather nice as well.
Matcha Oshiruko with Rice Cake
After reading the description for this item, I wasn't entirely sure what was going on, but the promise of matcha and mochi encouraged me to figure it out. Apparently, it's a soup enjoyed around New Years, and this particular one promises a deep and rich green tea flavor. The suggested pairings included Japanese tea, milk, and vanilla ice cream, which lead me to believe it's a dessert soup—something I seek out and enjoy often whenever I'm floating around Asia. Upon peeling back the lid I was hit with the wonderful aroma of matcha and 1 minute after pouring in some boiling water, this was ready for enjoyment. As you can see, I included a photo of the soup next to a Coke can for scale. This little soup was so tiny! The piece of mochi was soft and lightly sweet with the same texture you'll find with other confections of the same name, and the dark matcha broth had depth and a gentle hint of sweetness. What a cool inclusion for this month's box.
Spicy Cheese Napolitan
There's a special place in my heart reserved for Japanese-Italian fusion foods. I used to frequent those kinds of restaurants all the time when I lived in Shanghai and Hong Kong awhile back and they rarely disappointed. Imagine my delight when a taste of those cherished experiences arrived in this month's delivery! These noodles combine ripe tomatoes and a spicy cheese sauce, both of which had my attention right away. The booklet wasn't kidding when it said these noodles were spicy, but I didn't find it off-putting. It was a nice, welcoming burn that I had mitigated with a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese. I also added some basil and parsley. The drained "dry" noodles Umai Crate has been sending often wind up being my favorite, and these are no exception.
Tanukioyaji Spicy Ramen
Yay, tonkotsu ramen! I am always very happy when tonkotsu ramen makes an appearance in Umai Crate. In fact, I'm so wild about the stuff, I'd subscribe to a ramen box exclusively comprised of the tonkotsu variety, much to the chagrin of my cardiac health. Anyway, these ones touted themselves as rather spicy. I found them to be mid-level hot and somewhat unremarkable—just your regular, run of the mill ramen. Nothing wrong with that, though!
These noodles are often added to hot pots during the winter, but they also claim to be a great base for stir fry, salad, soup, or spring rolls. They looked and felt very delicate in the package, which led me to believe they'd cook up in no time. The serving size seemed on the small side, but considering we had more items than normal in this delivery, and they're meant to be used in addition to many other ingredients, I wasn't disappointed. I boiled them for 3 minutes to find they're essentially glass noodles—you almost can't even see them in the bowl! For some color (and flavor of course) I stirred in my last packet of udon sesame sauce from September. Mmm. A quick note if you decide to go the hot pot route with these: be sure to hold them in your chopsticks while you cook them, or stir them rapidly and keep an eye on them so they don't sink to the bottom of the pot, overcook quickly, and then burn!
The broth of this udon dish is comprised of "fly fish" which didn't initially appeal to me, but after many years of chowing down on Japanese noodles, I've come to learn that including fish in broth provides a delicious depth of flavor that's difficult to recreate otherwise. The udon was the gummy, half-cooked kind that only needed heated through with a bit of warm water. This can be pretty hit or miss as sometimes noodles of this type take on some of the plastic flavor of the packaging. While I was happy to find the noodles tasted great and nothing like plastic, it was the broth that ruined it all for me. It was super fishy, so if you're someone like my boyfriend who would prefer most of his diet to come straight from the sea, then these may fare better for you than they did me. I did add some sambal and some spicy seasoning from another delivery, but they didn't mask the flavor as much as I'd have liked. One thing I did really appreciate about this pack was the papery packaging everything came in. It felt good to recycle that component, whereas most others in this box aren't able to be recycled where I live.
Healthy Foods Sesame Ramen
Hello, old friend. This packet pops up every few months in Umai Crate, but that's no problem for me as I find them to be a great foundation for all sorts of veggies and protein. The "healthy" nod should be taken with a pretty big grain of salt (hah, get it, because of all this sodium-rich content) because if you're eating anything of the instant variety, you're definitely cutting some corners on nutrition in favor of convenience. To these, I added a soft boiled egg with pepper and seaweed furikake plus a generous helping of frozen veggies for a filling, delicious meal. You can't go wrong with the delicious, back-to-basics sesame flavor.
These seem familiar as well, though I can't easily confirm that I've received them before. The buckwheat noodles had the earthy quality I've come to expect, and like the noodles above, this packet was a nice platform for all sorts of add-ons. As you can see, I opted for another egg with seaweed furikake, some spicy seasoning from a previous box, and some of the yuzu pepper paste reviewed below. The pink and green toppings were included with the soba: little pieces of shrimp and something else I couldn't place with lots of savory flavor and a crunchy texture to mimic tempura before the broth made them soft. I've come to view noodles like this as an Umai Crate staple: not particularly wild and adventurous, but reliable and always tasty.
Bonus Item: Yuzu Pepper Paste
I've experienced yuzu in many forms, and I've enjoyed quite a few peppers in my day, but never both at the same time. I was really curious about what this paste would be like. The yuzu was punchy and present in the beginning, then finished into a savory pepper flavor with a bit of spice. If this was just a pepper paste, I'd be pretty excited because that is my preferred taste between the two, but the yuzu was a little aggressive in a way that reminded me of citrus hand sanitizer, so I'll be passing this one on.
Verdict: This month’s Umai Crate was really nice! While last month left me wanting, December came through with some UC staples and plenty of new flavors to experience. Plus, this particular box included a few more items than usual which I appreciated. An average cost of $3.33 per item might seem steep for instant noodles, but considering the uniqueness, exclusivity, and some items containing multiple servings, I think the value is definitely there, particularly if you're a bona fide noodle enthusiast like myself.
To Wrap Up:
Can I still get this box if I sign up today? No, you will receive the January box. Japan Crate will oftentimes add items from previous boxes to their online store, so if any of these really jump out at you, check there if you'd like to make any individual purchases.
ACTIVE DEAL: Save $3 off your first box
Value Breakdown: This box is $30 a month with free shipping. I received seven noodle packages, a dessert soup, and a tube of yuzu pepper paste, which come to an average of $3.33 per item.
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What was your favorite bowl from the December Umai Crate? Do you have any go-to add-ins for instant noodles?
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