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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 February 2020 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 recipe card for yakisoba pan, which looks like fried noodles, meat, and mayonnaise inside of a hot dog bun. Man, I love Japan.
Anyway, if you're down for some sodium-rich content, grab a glass of water and let's get into it.
Starting off this box we have a big ol' bowl of instant soba noodles, which, if you've had them before, you know exactly what to expect. This dish, with its soy-based broth and hearty noodles, promised green onion and chili peppers, but I didn't really pick up on either of those. What I did notice was the crunchy shrimp tenkasu topping which was pretty strong and quite delicious if you like shrimp. As you can see, I also added some spicy shichimi pepper seasoning from a previous delivery to the egg for some added zip. Pretty good!
My Friend Chige Hot Ramen
Now here are some noodles with pep. I thought this ramen was perfectly spicy and delicious on its own, somewhat akin to kimchi in flavor (and I really love kimchi). My additions of seaweed-coated sesame seeds, a soft boiled egg, some fresh green onions, and black and white sesame seeds leftover from a Blue Apron recipe made this quite the zesty and satisfying meal.
Kizami Age Udon
This udon is one of two kinds out there that includes fried tofu as a garnish. I've had kitsune udon a few times from Umai Crate (plus twice at the Tokyo airport lounge recently for comparison purposes) and always enjoy it—the tofu is soaked in a sweet sauce that really lends something special to a simple snack. Rather than the sweet stuff, this kizami udon touts fried, toasted tofu and it held my interest. It had a savory but mild quality that played well with the bits of green onion and the classic soup base.
Kagoshima Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen
Umai Crate is pretty good about including a tonkotsu ramen in every box which is great for me because it's my favorite! I love the complexity of the cloudy, savory broth and would honestly eat it every day if the nutritional makeup was healthier. Anyway, these noodles had an excellent spice to them that I dialed up even higher with the addition of some spicy kimchi, plus some green onions and a pepper-seasoned egg. I knew this ramen would be my winner of the month even before I opened it and I'm pleased to confirm that feeling held true.
A familiar face! I've received this "guilt-free" ramen a few times before and am not disappointed to see it reappear. It's a great, basic foundation for a meal of your own design with its notes of shrimp and shiitake flavors. To mine, I added a curry-seasoned egg, some spicy kimchi, and a bunch of frozen veggies. This was such a filling, tasty meal and I was honestly shocked that there was no salt in the soup base, hence the proposed absence of guilt.
Umai Crate's yakisoba inclusions are typically my second favorite of each delivery and these are no different. It was nice to have a small break from all of the hot broth with these slightly-dry noodles tossed in a sweet sauce with an intriguing depth of flavor. This one was also salt-free but still plenty flavorful.
Now, onto my least favorite of the bunch. There was nothing particularly wrong with these noodles, they just paled in comparison to all the other hits in this month's box. The flavor of the broth was largely overtaken by the pungent quality of the kelp and the dried flying fish used in the soup base. It may be difficult to tell in the photos above, but if you scroll up to the group photo above the About section, you'll see this bowl is much smaller than the others, which isn't a detraction—I just wanted to point that out. This wasn't terrible, it was just okay.
Bonus Item: Kyoto Flower Fu
I had no idea what this was when I pulled it out of the box. Turns out, it's a dry baked wheat gluten, rich in both protein and minerals. It can be used as a meat substitute and takes on the flavor of anything with which it's paired. I tossed a few of these into the noodles reviewed above and they soaked up the broth pretty quickly. The flower motif was pretty cute, too!
Verdict: This month’s Umai Crate was great, in my humble opinion. I am particularly delighted because almost every item was a noodle dish! After months of receiving soup stocks and rice toppings, this delivery felt like redemption, and like UC was getting back to its roots with all of the tasty noodle options. Hopefully this trend continues! With 8 items this month (not counting the bonus item), that brings the average cost to $3.75 per noodle pack, which I find fair for the uniqueness of the curation. I recently scoured my local Asian grocery store for some previous Umai hits and couldn't find a single one, so there's something to be said for the items UC sends.
To Wrap Up:
Can I still get this box if I sign up today? No, you will receive the March 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 8 items (not counting the bonus item) which comes to an average of $3.75 per item. That's pretty on par with most other months, and considering this was the most noodle-heavy box I've ever received, I'm pretty delighted by both the curation and value.
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What was your favorite bowl from the February Umai Crate? Do you have any go-to add-ins for instant noodles?