5 Japanese Foods I Eat Everyday (guest post by Kay Knofi)
Plant-based Japanese foods – a pleasant surprise
In the UK, I had been plant-based for 3 years and regularly ate “superfoods” like chia seeds and tahini. When I arrived in Japan, I realised how lucky I had been to have these items so cheap and available! I was devastated to discover my beloved “essentials” were now out of reach. You’re able to find some of these in Japan but they are expensive due to being imported.
Initially I struggled to maintain a balanced diet in Japan. It took a while to get used to the different produce available in the supermarkets. I’ve been here now for 7 months and it was only last month that I began to embrace the splendor of local and simple Japanese produce. This happened when I went camping with my work. I had been worried about vegetarian food options. However, it was heaven! For every meal, we were offered an abundant buffet of tofu and vegetables.
I realised that Japan has plant-based options both yummy and healthy. I immediately stocked up on groceries that would become my new essentials. It just goes to show that we often we forget just how nutritional everyday foods can be, that we don’t need to invest in the latest superfoods trends. Here’s a list of my favourite 5 Japanese foods, which I eat every day. Move over, tahini ~ make way for tofu.
5 delightful Japanese plant-based staple foods
Arguably one of the most well known ingredients of Japanese cuisine, soybean curd is an everyday staple here. You can have it in miso soup, deep fried and wrapped around sushi rice (Inari), or simply by itself – topped with green onion and soy sauce. It’s versatile and convenient to prepare. It’s also mild in flavour making it perfect for any dish!
Tofu is packed with essential nutrients that, can be difficult for vegans or vegetarians to acquire – for example iron and calcium.
Miso soup usually consists of miso paste (crushed fermented soybeans), water, tofu and wakame (a sea vegetable). It’s moreish and satisfying, or as the Japanese would say, has umame (a rich, savoury flavour). Miso soup is usually consumed for breakfast, but I find it to be the perfect snack at any time of the day.
This simple bowl of soup really goes a long way. It aids digestion and contains an array of vitamins and minerals such as copper (brain function) and magnesium (calcium absorption).
An aspect of Japanese culture is finding many uses for one thing, for example soybeans are made into tofu and miso. But before the plants ripen into soybeans, they are edamame, or, young soybeans. These are boiled in salty water in their pods then you just squeeze the beans into your mouth.
This quick snack is a good protein source as well as providing good fats such as omega 3 and boosting your immune system.
Pickled plums are intense and salty. It’s is my favourite Onigiri (rice ball) filling and it’s simply delicious in my go-to late-night-snack Ochazuke – a soup which consists of green tea, pickled plums, wakame and leftover rice.
Studies show that umeboshi may contribute in preventing heart disease, as well as containing potent antioxidants which are key for cell renewal. They are also known to prevent gum disease as they are antibacterial.
A sea vegetable used in miso soup and salad, it has a satisfying texture – adding a nice bite to the dish. Pair it with pickled vegetables like cucumbers or mix it with steamed spinach, soy sauce and wasabi. It’s extremely versatile and a little goes a long way!
Wakame may be more nutritionally dense than any land vegetable! It is a rich source of iron as well as B6 and B12 (all needed to maintain healthy energy levels). It’s also brimming with vitamin C – a yummy way to boost your immune system.
I was delighted to realise how vegan friendly Japan can be. All these foods are readily available and there’s variation within the foods e.g. different tofus, seaweed and pickled vegetables. It’s also nice to know you are buying local produce which results in a more personal connection between you and what’s on your plate. After all, regionality is an integral part of the Japanese culture.
Post by Kay Knofi, who writes about wellness, mindfulness and culture on her blog: http://www.kayknofi.wordpress.com. She also makes upcycled vegan t-shirts under the name SOY BABY Tシャツ (named after her love of all things soy!), take a look here.
I believe that animals are here to share the Earth with us, not to satisfy our desires. This led me to drop meat from my menu at an early age. In 2011, after learning about the process involved in the production of eggs and dairy, I started researching about veganism and decided to become plant-based. As I continue to learn and experiment, I still marvel at the many benefits that a plant-based lifestyle offers. I’ve lectured in schools about animal welfare and I hope that through veggino, we can help people in Japan explore this life-changing journey. The number of plant-based people worldwide has been skyrocketing in recent years, and it’s Japan’s turn now!