Happy Boil-in-a-bag Birthday!
Japan's 'pouch curry' turns a tasty 40
Staff writer
Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008

Fancy a feast? Un petit peu du foie gras, perchance? A slice or three of the finest Aberdeen Angus roast beef, if you will with lashings of horseradish, sans doute. Or, drop a plastic pouch of curry into boiling water, wait for 3 minutes, pour it over rice and voila! you have a meal fit for an impoverished king.

Pouch curry fans gather in Kawasaki (top), where over the last four years they have enjoyed more than 800 boil-in-a-bag recipes, such as these (above) and even astronauts' fare (below). ERIKO ARITA PHOTOS

"I don't need to cook if I have pouch curries, even when I hold a home party. What I do is just prepare the rice," said Makiko Hidari, a housewife living in Kawasaki.

For four years, she has held regular gatherings she calls retoruto kare o kiwameru kai ("group seeking the depth of pouch curries"). To date, Hidari and her friends have tasted more than 800 kinds of boil-in-the-bag curry. But this is no mere academic pursuit, because one of the group's members, who goes by the name of Mi-chan, said that she, her husband and two children regularly eat "pouch curries" at home whenever she is tired of cooking and other household chores.

"I usually stock pouch curries for such times," she said. "Without them I feel uneasy."

Boil-in-the-bag curry, called retoruto kare in Japan (because the industrial machines used to cook the curry in bags are called, in English, "retorts"), is one of the nation's most popular convenience foods, and this month marks the 40th anniversary of the invention of this cordon-something cuisine.

Back in 1968, on February 12, Otsuka Foods Co. launched Bon Curry on the world.

Before th