Traditionally Japan has been a haven for vegetarians. In fact, for 1200 years of its existence until 1872, it was illegal to eat meat (typically red meat) in Japan. While the traditional definition of vegetarianism in Japan has permitted the consumption of fish, there are lots of choices out there for western vegetarians and vegans to eat as well.
So, if you’re headed out to a Japanese restaurant or thinking of visiting the country for yourself, then here are some vegetarian Japanese meals to keep your eye out for.
Yasai Katsu Curry
Japanese curry finds its roots in curry that was brought to Japan by the British in the 19th century. It’s not particularly spicy, but rather flavourful. Yasai katsu curry uses aubergine or sweet potato rather than meat, which is battered and fried before being added to the curry. It is a tasty and filling meal, which I cannot recommend enough.
Japan’s fried foods are still somehow more delicate than those found in the west. Tempura might be more commonly found as chicken or prawns, but there are usually plenty of vegetable tempuras available. The batter is light and flavourful, so you don’t have to worry about it being overly oily and clogging up your arteries.
These are one of my favourite things about Japanese cuisine and they are absolutely delicious. Small dumplings filled with vegetables, they are especially delicious when eaten with dipping sauces, particularly vinegar and chilli. Make sure to check that the batter and seasoning haven’t used the traditional tuna flakes!
About as simple as it comes, edamame is seasoned soybeans cooked in their pod and seasoned with salt – or cooked in salt water. Very easy to prepare, edamame is both a salty snack and a nice accompaniment to a larger meal. Especially good with beer.
This thin soup is the standard accompaniment to many Japanese meals. It is light and flavourful, with thinly sliced vegetables throughout. Most varieties also contain some tofu, so you can get a little more bulk out of your meal. Miso soup is easy to make at home too, so you might want to try your hand at it yourself.