Updated: October 09, 2019
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Vegetarian foods you must try while in Japan

Japan has some interesting foods that every vegetarian should at least try while travelling or living in the country. Here are five of them that won't fail to impress.

Feel free to follow favy!

Natto

natto
Natto is made by fermenting soybeans. It's particularly well-known because of its strong smell that isn't too pleasant to the unaccustomed nostrils, and for its extremely sticky texture.

The way you eat it is by first stirring it (about 50 revolutions) inside the small container it is served in, adding some condiments to it, and serving it on top of a bowl of rice. Be aware however that some tare sauces (soy-based condiment) it often comes with are made from fish flakes, so make sure to avoid those if you want to have vegetarian natto.

Natto is a very polarizing food! It seems like about half of the foreigners that try it like it and the other half enjoy it. At any rate, you should at least give it a try. It's one of Japan's most emblematic food and because it has lots of protein and good bacteria that promote gastrointestinal health, it's really good for you too.

You can find natto sold in packs of three at supermarkets for about ¥100. If you want to try it in a restaurant, it's often served as part of a breakfast set at traditional restaurants and some major chains too.

Tofu

yuba2
There is an impressive number of kinds of tofu you can have in Japan. They vary in texture from very hard to silky smooth, and also in the way they are made (e.g. deep-fried, in combination with other ingredients).

Tofu is very common but rarely the main ingredients in Japanese cooking, rather it is served as a side dish. In traditional set meals, you'll often have it served on a small plate, topped with grated ginger and thinly sliced green onions. Before you eat it, you simply pour a little soy sauce on it to give it some extra savouriness.

Pictured above is yuba tofu or tofu skin. Yuba is a specialty of Kyoto. You have got to try it if you go there.

Yaki Imo

yaki_imo
So simple yet incredibly delicious, the yaki imo is a grilled Japanese sweet potato.

Super sweet and packed with nutrients, it's a good thing to have on the go. Particularly popular in the fall during its harvest, you a sure to see them near the entrance of supermarkets kept on warm on hot rocks in a special small stall.

Also, just like ice cream sold from mobile carts in the U.S., you might see and hear vendors selling them around parks and other public areas. Make sure to try a yaki imo if you spot one of these stalls. It's a fun retro experience you can only have in Japan.

Seaweeds

mozuku2
Japan consumes seaweed more than any other country in the world. Nori sheets are widely known for being the thing you roll up maki sushi with, but there are many others too that are eaten in a completely different way.

Take for example mozuku or mekabu. These two different kinds of seaweed are cut thinly and eaten like a little seaweed noodle soup. The taste depends on what you put into them, but generally speaking, mozuku is mixed with some vinegar, while a soy-based tare is used to enhance the taste of mekabu.

What people like about them is not just the taste but also the smooth, slimy texture.

These two kinds of seaweed are sold in small packs at supermarkets.

You should definitely try them out if you are vegetarian because seaweed contains vitamins such as B12 that are otherwise hard to find in a plant-based diet.

Ramen... ?

retina_soranoiro_vegan__3_
Indeed! More and more there are some excellent ramen joints that serve some vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Sora no iro, for instance, is hugely popular among vegetarians and non vegetarians alike. It's been featured in the Michelin Guide for several years in a row and you're almost guaranteed to see people wait in line to get in.

Vegetarian ramen soup is made from the dashi of several vegetables and seaweed, so it's super light yet still very tasty and packed with umami.

Here are some good suggestions for vegetarian ramen in Tokyo.
tabikamome
Japanese food culture enthusiast. Love to explore new areas and discover local specialties.

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