LIP SMACKING DELICACIES AND A BRAND NEW CULINARY EXPERIENCE
Lip Smacking Delicacies and a Brand New Culinary Experience :Japan is a Gastronomic Haven for Vegetarians
Japan has a very exclusive culinary culture. Being surrounded on all sides by the sea, this Island Nation has an inclination towards seafood, especially fish which features in many of their favourite dishes. On the other hand, Japanese cuisine is also a treasure trove of an excellent variety of vegetarian foods! If you are a vegetarian you will have the opportunity to taste and relish some refreshingly delightful Japanese delicacies while in the country. Innovation and talent for balancing flavours are at the core of the vast array of vegetarian dishes you can get your hands on in Japan.
Just like Indians, the Japanese also love their rice. Pickled vegetables, soups and fruits are also some of their daily staples. An additional piece of good news is that the number of vegetarian restaurants in Japan is steadily increasing. Thanks to the urbanised Japanese crowd who are demanding healthier and less calorie-laden options, vegetarian foods are now the focus of restaurant owners. Whether you visit Japan for higher studies, employment or business trip, you will easily get accustomed to their style of food that is mild on the stomach and full of nourishment.
A Strong Legacy of Vegetarianism at Its Roots
Meat and fish were not the first choices of food in Japan. History tells us that the Japanese had rejected meat in the past. It was Emperor Tenmu who first banned the killing of livestock and feasting on wild animals such as cattle, horse, donkeys, dogs, and birds way back in 675 AD. He was inspired and influenced by the teachings of Buddhism. Though Emperor Seimu allowed the citizens to eat shellfish and fishes in 737 AD, again from the Nara Period the Japanese turned to vegetarian meals. During this time rice, vegetables and beans were the main staples for everyday consumption.
The Japanese had also formed a special vegetarian cuisine known as the shōjin-ryōri. The word ryōri means cooking in Japanese. Shojin is the Japanese translation of a Sanskrit word Virya which means to be good and keep the evil away. For 1200 years they strictly followed a vegetarian diet after which the Meiji Restoration occurred. As Japan became open to western influences, Emperor Meiji ended the ban on red meat. Nevertheless, vegetarian food is still a part of their culture. At funerals across Japan, a vegetarian meal called ozen is served which consists of rice, simmered vegetables, miso soup, and beans. This exceptional legacy of clean eating and vegetarianism are reflected in Japan’s cuisine till date.
Thus, they know how to show respect for your vegetarian food preferences.
Having the Best Vegetarian Food Depends On How You Ask for It!
The Japanese don’t consider fish or seafood to be meat. Thus, seafood has become a predominant component of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes in modern Japan. But, you don’t have to worry! While ordering vegetarian food at Japanese restaurants make sure to utter the two phrases, “niku nashi” and “sakana nashi”. The phrase “niku nashi” means no meat and the meaning of “sakana nashi” is no seafood. This will help the waiters understand your requirements more clearly. An important aspect of Japanese foods is dashi which is used in plenty of dishes. It is basically a stock prepared with katsuoboshi or fish flakes, Kombu seaweed, and shiitake mushrooms. Seaweed and mushrooms are well within the parameters of vegetarian and even vegan diets but fish flakes are a definite no-no. Ask the waiter to not add fish flakes in the dashi by saying the words “katsuoboshi nashi”.
Countless Options to Choose From
There are a number of common vegetarian dishes that you can order in most traditional Japanese restaurants and izakayas. These dishes have no meat or fish in them yet can offer you an unforgettable memory of dining. Moreover, there are several restaurants which by default serve vegetarian dishes such as the tofu restaurants, garlic restaurants, and potato restaurants. All you need to do is a little research for finding out the restaurants specializing in vegetarian food around you. SilverPeak-Japanese Culture Facts is here to guide you regarding the best food options that vegetarians should try in Japan.
- Soups and Hot Pots
If you are looking for a quick meal that keeps you satiated for a long time try the Japanese hot pots. It is basically a pot of bubbling broth in which different ingredients are cooked together. You can choose to have “shabu-shabu” style of hot pot where the diners can add their choice of ingredients into the broth. As a vegetarian, this gives you more control over what you eat. You may also try Nabe hot pots which include lots of veggies and tofu but ask the waiter not to add meat or seafood. The nutrition-rich Miso soup is a great palette cleanser and appetiser. Its main ingredient is fermented bean paste.
This is a thick rice cake which is eaten fried as agedashimochi or grilled as kirimochi. Agedashimochi is a nice to taste dish which is made more savoury with bonito broth, a sprinkling of radish, and leeks. It is also used in the traditional Japanese pancakes called okonomiyaki.
- Baked or Grilled Eggplants
The Japanese people have a zeal for bringing out the full potential of a veggie. You will realize this on tasting their grilled or baked eggplant dishes. These are popular side dishes for them. After cooking the eggplant they enhance its flavour with miso sauce made of soy bean paste, koji, and sea salt.
The Japanese are fond of Kushimono or skewered food. There are even dedicated Kushimono restaurants for enjoying this cooking style. You can have a great variety of veggie options like green pepper, mushrooms, lotus roots and okra along with many other vegetables fried on skewers. Munch on delectable vegetable croquettes on the side as well!
- Soba and Other Noodle Dishes
Japanese have a staggering variety of noodles available for foodies. Many of them are appropriate for vegetarians. One such noodle dish is the zaru soba which is usually served chilled with a sauce to dip the noodles in. Hot noodles are often served in a bowl of soup. You should also try kitsune udon made of flat noodles and tofu.
- Vegetarian Rice Dishes
When in doubt a rice dish can be the sumptuously filling option for Indians. Japan too has many vegetarian rice dishes on offer such as Maze-gohan, takikomi-gohan, and kama-meshi. You may also order edamame-goahn which is a dish where rice is prepared with shreds of soya beans. Also try the takenoko-gohan, a dish made of baby bamboo shoots and rice.
From sweet to savoury Japan has all types of foods to serve vegetarians for a lifetime. Take help of modern apps for finding restaurants and check their menu beforehand, so you don’t feel clueless while ordering. Knowing the Japanese language can help you in discovering the true culinary gems of the country as per your gastronomic choices.