Nac Mac Vegan: adventures in rabbit food

07/04/2010

Japan: some additional vegan konbini goodies

As mentioned yesterday, Herwin Walravens’ Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide contains a handy summary of the few vegan items available in Japanese convenience stores. There are a few others too.
Sesame tofu package
Gomadōfu (ごまどうふ) is one of the non-tofu “tofu”s. It’s sesame milk set with kūzu and is rather pleasant if you like sesame. There are a number of similar looking items, some of which are flavoured tofu – shiso (しそ – perilla) is a vegan one of these; others are the aforementioned jellies set with kūzu, including a black sesame version. One warning: if you see a package very similar to the one shown, but yellow, it’s a savoury egg custard thing. The kanji for egg is very distinctive and worth learning to recognise: .
vegan daikon and seaweed salad from Family Mart
The second discovery is a daikon and seaweed salad from Family Mart. I’m afraid I forgot to photograph it until I’d eaten half of it, but the photo is enough to get the picture. The container has a small amount of lettuce at the bottom, then loads of shredded daikon, topped with a variety of seaweeds. There is no salad dressing, so you might want to sprinkle on a bit of soy sauce or something. I have been through the ingredients list with the proverbial fine toothed comb and all it contains is the lettuce, daikon and various kinds of seaweed. They’ve neglected to sneak in any fish whatsoever. Let’s hope no English-reading person at Family Mart notices this post and gets the “error” corrected!

I’ve been eating a lot of inarizushi while I’ve been here. It’s one of my favourite foods, so I’m not at all upset about it. There are many variations, and I have yet to find one that isn’t vegan. You can get it with mushrooms, or sansai (山菜 – mountain vegetables, edamame and many other things. The only non-vegan version of which I am aware is a regional variation which uses thin omelette instead of the tofu pouches. I’ve never actually seen it anywhere.

There are several varieties of small sushi roll which are vegan: the classic cucumber (adding mayo to them seems to be an American trick), yellow pickled daikon, natto and one I’d not seen before – kanpyo dried gourd reconstituted. Note the sachets of soy sauce that come with convenience store and supermarket sushi aren’t – they’re a mixture of soy sauce and fish stock. Buy your own wee bottle of soy sauce.

I am here for three weeks and can’t eat out for every meal or I wouldn’t have money to spend on capsule toys, yaoi, robots and weird Hello Kitty items. I have a kettle in the room, and there is a microwave oven in the hotel, so I plan to expand my horizons a little. I have a nice small miso bowl from Muji and a larger plastic noodle bowl from a 100 yen shop. I brought some sachets of a vegan instant dashi (enough to tide me over till I find a shop that sells it) and a small bottle of soy sauce with me. I have already bought a small bag of sweet white miso, a package containing mixed seaweed and wheat gluten coils, some fried tofu and some vegan instant ramen bought from a macrobiotic shop. The supermarket near Akihabara station sells fresh soba (buckwheat) noodles, so I can easily put together a hot meal in my (pokey) room on the cheap. I’ll try and remember to blog my efforts.

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06/04/2010

Review: Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide

Filed under: Reading matter — Tags: , , , — Feòrag @ 09:58

Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide cover

I’ve been in Tokyo for the last week, and am finally ready to catch up and write some restaurant reviews. First though, a book recommendation.

Last time I was here, in 2007, I picked up a small booklet called the Tokyo Kyoto Osaka Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide and it proved invaluable. When I heard of a new edition coming out not long before I came back, I asked a friend who lives in Tokyo to mail order a copy for me in time for my arrival. This new edition is colour and much expanded – it’s now the Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide.

Not every vegan or vegan-friendly restaurant is listed. The important thing about this guide is that the author, Herwin Walravens, has personally visited and eaten in every restaurant which has a full entry. He’s clearly an enthusiastic eater, as the vast majority of vegan restaurants are to be found within. There are plenty of photographs of the food, and the restaurants themselves, and the maps are useful. A section at the back includes shorter descriptions of interesting eateries the author has not yet managed to visit.

Further appendices contain information on veganism in Japan, and how to survive in convenience stores, including photographs of the few vegan products there are. I’ve found a couple more, which I will blog about later.

As the author is a Dutch man, writing in two languages, neither of which is Dutch, the English can be a little interesting in places, but the occasional head-scratching moment does not distract from the sheer quality of this guide and the information it contains. If you are vegan or vegetarian and are visiting Japan you absolutely need this book. Remember – you probably can’t afford the international roaming charges to access the Happy Cow’s Tokyo listings, nor Vege-Navi (a really good resource which allows you to find restaurants by nearby railway or metro stations) on the move.

Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide by Herwin Walravens, Children of the Carrot. ISBN: 978-90-813822-1-2. Price: ¥1680 plus postage. Updates are regularly posted to the book’s website.

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