Japan has a long history with healthy ingredients, with many traditional recipes using vegetable and plant-based produce to create culinary delights. If you’re someone who’s looking to continue your clean eating past Veganuary, then look no further as we dive into the wonderful world of Japanese vegan ingredients and the dishes you can expect to make with them!
5. Miso (みそ)
Available in a variety of flavours and colours as a result of the numerous ingredient bases in Japan, miso (みそ) is a staple of Japanese cuisine and also happens to be vegan-friendly! While white miso tends to be a little lighter and less salty than it’s counterparts, and is made by fermenting soybeans with rice. Thanks to its subtly sweet flavour, it’s best used in condiments like mayonnaise or light soups.
Red miso, on the other hand, is made by fermenting soybeans with barley or other grains, giving it a stronger, saltier taste. Rather than a condiment, we recommend using red miso as a marinade or in hearty soups to give them a burst of umami flavour.
Check out some of our recipes using miso below:
- Butternut Squash Miso Soup with Seasoned Butter – use white miso and a vegan butter recipe like this one here!
- Miso Vegetable Stir Fry – skip step 2 and use red miso to substitute the saltiness of the pork
- Miso Yaki Onigiri Rice Balls – use either white or red miso!
4. Soba (そば)
Soba noodles (そば) are buckwheat noodles that come in two main forms – dried, straight noodles and those made fresh. While high quality, artisan soba noodles are made with 100% buckwheat, cheaper alternatives exist in the form of a 90% wheat/10% buckwheat composition.
A versatile ingredient, soba can be served in a hot broth as a noodle soup, chilled with a tsuyu (つゆ) dipping sauce, or fried in its most famous form – yakisoba (焼きそば). Thanks to the flexibility of the recipes surrounding soba, it is not only deliciously vegan-friendly, but there is a dish for every season on the year!
Check out some of our soba recipes here:
- Cold Green Tea Soba Noodles – use only dried soba
- Yakisoba Pan Fried Noodle Sandwiches – use pre-cooked soba noodles
- Yakisoba Fried Noodles – use high-quality soba or even instant soba for a quick and delicious meal! Learn how to make your own Yakisoba and Okonomiyaki with our Japan Centre Ichiba Masterclass! Get your tickets here!
3. Seaweed (海藻)
High in protein, low in fat and packed full of vitamins and minerals, edible seaweed (海藻, kaisou) has been a staple part of the Japanese diet for thousands of years. Beyond its super-food status both in the West and in Japan, it tastes delicious and adds a subtly textured saltiness to all kinds of dishes.
Perhaps the most well-known form of edible seaweed is nori (のり) – toasted and flattened into paper-thin sheets and often wrapped around sushi and onigiri rice balls. It is also often used in miso soup as a seasoning. Another way to use seaweed is in its konbu (昆布) form in which it can be used to season Japanese broths as a dashi.
Check out our seaweed recipes here:
2. Tofu (豆腐)
Tofu (豆腐) is a soybean product that is widely used in not only Japanese cuisine, but other East Asian cuisines too. Made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting mixture into textured blocks, it’s high in protein and iron making it a vegan super-food.
Tofu, similar to miso, comes in many forms. Silken tofu (絹ごし豆腐, kinugoshidoufu) is the smoothest, most delicate of the range and often has a glossy appearance. While it comes in a range of consistencies ranging from soft to firm, the delicate nature of the ingredient means that more care is required to both handle and cook it. To combat this, dried tofu (高野豆腐, kouyatoufu) was developed as a way to preserve the ingredient, excelling in uses such as sautéing or stir-frying while retaining the delicious tofu flavour.
Check out some of our tofu recipes here:
- Tempura Tofu Steak Burgers with Coriander Pesto – use dried tofu
- Chakin Tofu in Ginger Broth – use a good quality, firm tofu
- Inari Sushi Canapés – use fried tofu for this recipe or learn how to make vegan sushi from the best at our Vegan Sushi Masterclass at Japan Centre Ichiba! Get your tickets here!
1. Rice (お米)
Oryza sativa – what we know as the rice plant – can be divided into two major subspecies, japonica and indica. Japonica rice, cultivated predominantly in Japan and Korea, has a much shorter, rounder grain and a glutinous texture which makes it perfect for picking up with chopsticks, moulding into sushi, and even pairing it with your favourite Japanese curry brand.
Within the japonica subspecies of rice, there are two main types of rice: (1) koshihikari rice (コシヒカリ玄米) – short to medium grain, sticky in consistency and often a subdued sweet and nutty flavour; (2) akitakomachi (あきたこまち玄米) – short and plump grain, sticky rice that easily retain a shape once moulded, making them popular for sushi (お寿司) and onigiri (おにぎり).
Check out our rice recipes here: