Plant-Based Japan Travel – Osaka

Osaka is known as the kitchen of Japan, and the friendliest city we visited. Although it’s the third largest city in Japan, it’s comparatively less veg*n-friendly than Tokyo or Kyoto. Good thing is, Osaka is much more budget friendly, which is why we did all our shopping there before coming back to Singapore. In certain eateries, you can taste vegan versions of famous Osaka street food like yakiniku (BBQ meat skewers), okonomiyaki (savoury pancake), teriyaki (grilled meat) and takoyaki (octopus dumplings)!

While offering all the modern comforts of a big city, Osaka is also laid-back and friendly – so I never felt overwhelmed here like in Tokyo. Some shops and even large department stores open late and close rather early.

Maps:

When in Japan, don’t forget to look down!

Notes:

  • Veg*n is a shortened, inclusive term to refer to vegans and vegetarians.
  • This article is solely based on my experiences and research, thus may not represent the whole of Osaka.
  • Accuracy of information cannot be guaranteed as there may be changes to the eatery’s operations

Osaka Station

The biggest train station in Osaka, connected to many malls and department stores. There aren’t any pure veggie or vegan places here, but there’s a few places that offer vegan dishes.

Breakfast places

Most places near Osaka station seem to open at 10.30am or so, so we didn’t walk around looking for breakfast. After my trip someone from the Osaka Vegans group suggested a few breakfast places with vegan options around this area, which we’ve added to our map.

Generally, you can look for bakeries as those are open early. All bakeries I visited in Japan have breads without egg and dairy (labelled clearly) and most can do an americano. Some may even offer soymilk for coffee. Alternatively, you can grab cheap bites like certain onigiris, edamame, certain cookies, sesame buns, soymilks and more from konbinis – list here.

Chabuton (non-veg)

  • Alliums: Contains, request without
  • Alcohol: None tasted, sells alcohol

On the 6th floor’s restaurant area in Yodobashi Camera building, which is linked to Osaka Station via an elevated walkway. All Chabuton outlets in Japan has vegan ramen and gyoza. You have to buy a ticket from the vending machine and pass it to the server. A cheap and quick place to settle a meal. Review.

Ramen in Japan is always too salty, I really prefer our noodle dishes!

Nakazakicho Station

10 minutes walk from Osaka station and has 4 veg*n spots (WaGwann, Aju, Babel Cafe and Pineapple Cafe) within a kilometer. Thus we booked this hotel (didn’t book Airbnb, we wanted luggage storage and airport shuttle for our last day). 10 minutes walk from this hotel is the fancy Hotel New Hankyu, which has the airport shuttle and is right next to Osaka Station.

Breakfast

The hotel said there’s nothing vegan in the breakfast buffet, which was okay because it was a bit expensive anyway. We can’t really cook in the room, which is why I carried a light and small electric travel cooker for such situations. We got bread, natto (those without fish sauce), oatmeal (I heated up with water in the cooker), wakame and sushi from supermarkets and had a cheap, substantial and balanced breakfast.

If you don’t wish to make breakfast, you can check out bakeries near Osaka station or grab a bite from konbinis.

Better than Gardenia!

Vegebar Aju (vegan) – Okonomiyaki, Yakitori

  • Alliums & Alcohol: Some dishes have, labelled clearly. Sells alcohol.

Has vegan okonomiyaki and yakitori! Impressively large menu of hearty, wholesome foods at an affordable price (by Japan standards). There’s only one person manning the cafe so be prepared to wait if it’s full house. Review.

Okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake consisting of cabbage and a type of meat. Usually topped with a tangy sauce, mayo, dried seaweed, bonito (fish) flakes and spring onions. By default, the batter will have egg. Which is why I only ate this in places that serve the vegan version.

Babel Cafe (vegan)

  • Alliums: Unsure
  • Alcohol: Shop sells it

Located in a shopping arcade 8 minutes away from the station. Passed by this place but didn’t find a chance to visit as they aren’t open for dinner on that day. Seems like a healthy vegan cafe with many raw foods.

Looks so fun and welcoming!

Shinsaibashi

Another popular shopping district, this one is like our Orchard Road so I didn’t explore much of it. Only went to a drugstore and bought 15 of this amazing chocolate rice crispy back!

Paprika Shokudo (vegan) – Teriyaki

  • Alliums: Contains, request without when ordering
  • Alcohol: Shop sells it

About 6 minutes walk away from the Shinsaibashi (exit 2) station. However, the station is huge (10 blocks long!) and which exit you’ll end up at also depends on where you’re coming from. So if you want a simpler route, exit at smaller stations like Hommachi (Restaurant Green Earth is near this station) and Nishi-Ohashi. Had the best mock meats here, so I’m sure omnivore friends will enjoy too. The teriyaki tempeh is something I won’t forget! Review.

Grilled vegan eel rice bowl (donburi). Compared to Bespoke’s version, this is more shiok!

Dontonburi

Shopping district where the famous Glico running man is at. Come here to be amused by the crazy eye-catching displays made by restaurants and get some omiyage (souvenir) shopping done!

A hungry, ramen-holding dragon isn’t something you see everyday!

Toushoumen Unryuu (non-veg)

  • Alliums: Contains, request without when ordering
  • Alcohol: Shop sells it

Dontonburi is mainly a takoyaki and okonomiyaki food street and “normal” Osaka street food isn’t vegan. Surprisingly, Dontonburi has lots of Chinese restaurants! We discovered one shop towards the end with a “we have vegetarian food” sign at the door! The staff even checked with us if onion/garlic is okay. You may think that Chinese food is everywhere in Singapore, but Chinese food is so diverse. This place focus on dishes from Shaanxi, Shanxi and Xi’an, and specialises in dao xiao mian (knife shaved noodles). I’ve not found vegan versions of those in Singapore yet! Definitely worth a try. Review.

Says in Chinese, “We have vegetarian food, can do takeaway.” A Chinese restaurant with photos that look like these, is very likely to have authentic food!

OSAKA Namba Station

This may be the station where you get off for Dotonburi, depending on where you’re coming from. Like all other big stations in Japan, it’s huge and has multiple levels, track lines and exits. So always ask the station staff for directions, I learnt that it’s futile to figure things out by yourself!

LIFE supermarket (chain)

On the first floor of Maruito Namba building. A huge supermarket in Namba station with a bakery and prepared foods section. Carries vegan mayo, soymilk bread, natto and cucumber sushi and many more. If you’re unsure about what’s veg*n in the prepared foods section, you can check with the kitchen staff – but be specific when asking since not everyone in Japan knows what vegan is. We did our omiyage shopping here instead of buying in tourists areas. Supermarkets sell pretty much the same thing, with simpler packaging and it’s cheaper! Review.

Japanese mayo is tastier than Western mayo, in my opinion!

Kansai Airport

Hanazoto (non-veg)

  • Alliums: Unsure
  • Alcohol: Shop sells it

Located in airport’s Hotel Nikko. Has one traditional Kyoto-style vegetarian set indicated on their website. Not sure if it’s vegan though, as tempura batter usually has egg. Seems expensive, so we didn’t eat here.

Bento from Hidamari Tsutsu (vegan)

  • Alliums & Alcohol: Can request without

Before we went to Kansai Airport, I reserved 4 bentos from Tsutsu, a local vegan home chef, by messaging her Facebook page. She met us at Nakazakicho station since it was quite near her house. She even gave us a handwritten menu – so kind and thoughtful! Thanks to this homely, balanced bento, we had a lovely and affordable lunch in Kansai airport! She’ll start her own cafe soon, so follow her Facebook to get updates. Review.

Homely and made with care. A lovely end to our trip 🙂

Family Mart (chain)

This convenience store is in the departure hall, behind the Starbucks where you can get soymilk with your drink. I bought some daifuku (big mochi), natto roll and seaweed onigiri to snack on the plane. Here’s a list of vegan konbini food items.

Notable mentions (AKA: I WISH I VISITED)

Self Takoyaki Bar (non-veg) – Takoyaki

  • Alliums: Takoyaki usually have onions as topping, request without
  • Alcohol: Shop sells it

Has vegan takoyaki – likely the only place in Osaka that does! Next to Shin-Imamiya Station, which is outside the city area of Osaka so be prepared to travel a bit. I didn’t visit as it’s a smoking bar, which my family won’t be comfortable in. From reviews in the Osaka group, the takoyaki is really yummy and you can even make it yourself!

Megumi (vegan) – Okonomiyaki

  • Alliums: Unsure
  • Alcohol: Shop sells it

I heard good things about their okonomiyaki and food in general. Sadly, they were closed during our stay in August (luckily I checked their Facebook before visiting), as it was the Obon holidays (which is something like our Qing Ming). Seems like a highly recommended place if you want to taste vegan versions of local food!

Thank you for reading!

Japan is such a wonderful country full of surprises and revelations. One should be able to enjoy Japan no matter what you eat! I hope this series will help greatly and give you more confidence going there! I’ll continue to post more dishes and packaged food reviews over at abillionveg to help their animal sanctuary partners. If you’d like to review any veg*n food, post it there and abillionveg can donate on your behalf to various animal welfare groups! Have a great trip 🙂

Previous: Kyoto

Plant-Based Japan Travel – Kyoto

Kyoto’s many atmospheric shrines and grand temples offer visitors a glimpse into Japan’s ancient past. Come here to experience “wabi-sabi”, the Japanese aesthetic of finding beauty in imperfection (not wasabi!). Everything seems beautiful, from the moss that covers a rock in temple gardens to the irregularities in the ceramic cup that matcha is served in. Kyoto has a much slower pace of life than Tokyo, which also means that many small businesses close earlier or have irregular opening hours.

Don’t expect to find Buddhist vegetarian food at the temples. In fact, meat and alcohol are sold in many temples – a huge culture shock for me!

Notes:

  • Veg*n is a shortened, inclusive term to refer to vegans and vegetarians.
  • This article is solely based on my experiences and research, thus may not represent the whole of Kyoto.
  • Accuracy of information cannot be guaranteed as there may be changes to the eatery’s operations

Maps & groups:

Kyoto Tower – visit near sunset!

Kyoto station & Kyoto Tower

There seems to be not much options in Kyoto station except this Korean place (which I wasn’t interested in as Singapore has good Korean food). Kyoto Tower is connected to Kyoto Station. There’s one vegan place in the basement food court.

  • Alliums: One main dish is allium-free
  • Alcohol: None tasted, sells alcohol

A small vegan stall in the food court below Kyoto Tower, more like a bar. Main focus seems to be the alcohol they sell. Not much choice of main dishes, but overall quite tasty. Review.

Why I love Japan – detailed allergen information!

Organic Salute (vegan)

  • Alliums: Contains, check when ordering
  • Alcohol: None tasted, sells alcohol

Hidden in an alleyway, but 5 minutes walk from Kyoto Station. It’s located in a wooden house in a residential area. Lovely homemade food. Some dishes are written at the counter, some are inside the menu so look closely. Also has a small grocery section where you can get miso instant noodles and macrobiotic cookies. Review.

Keep your eyes peeled for this door!

Nagomi Yoda Towa (non-veg)

  • Alliums: Present, request without when booking
  • Alcohol: None tasted, sells alcohol

Modernized traditional ryokan (Japanese-style inn) about 8 minutes away from Kyoto Station. We stayed here a night just for the experience. Highly recommended as the tatami rooms were the most comfortable and spacious rooms we stayed in. They understand vegan and provided the most amazing Japanese breakfast. Breakfast is included when you book through Booking.com – remember to type your request for veg*n one and confirm again when checking in. Review.

Looks simple but fresh and exquisite! Favourites were the grated yam soup, tofu and soy milk.

Hankyu Omiya Station

A transit spot with another station (Shijo Omiya, goes to Arashiyama) and many bus stops nearby. In Japan, it’s quite common to see different stations in the same area run by different companies). So you’re very likely to pass by here.

Vegetarian Ren (vegan)

  • Alliums & Alcohol: None

Taiwanese vegan food – the best-tasting, most value for money and substantial meal we had in Kyoto, served by an old couple who are devoted Buddhists – thus no alliums and alcohol in the restaurant. They were the friendliest and sweetest owners we met. Not easy to find as signage is not clear. Located on the second floor of the building 2 blocks behind 7-11. Review.

Highly recommended for big eaters!

Nishiki Market

A bustling market offering local goods, street food, tax-free shopping and souvenirs. Lots of food options here!

Inside the market

Lots of street food even for vegans! Rice crackers (check for fish sauce), fried tofu (check for meat and fish), pickles, ice cream, traditional sweets and more. We sampled incredible pickled mountain peppers, handmade soymilk, soy sauce dango and black bean ice cream. Review.

Black bean & sesame ice cream!

Ain Soph. Journey (vegan)

  • Alliums: Contains, check when ordering
  • Alcohol: None tasted. Some dishes use alcohol. Shop sells alcohol.

Their menu is very Western so wasn’t interesting to me as a tourist from Singapore, but come here for the soy karaage and those vegan desserts (like their famous matcha pancakes) that aren’t available in Singapore. Review.

Vegan version of Japanese deep fried meat, made with soy protein (TVP).

Miso Pota (non-veg)

  • Alliums: Contains, check when ordering
  • Alcohol: None tasted. Sells alcohol

Sells quick and light meals of Japanese-style soups, onigiris and drinks. Labels the soups with fish stock clearly; most of the menu is vegan. Only has 3 seats. Review.

Not sure what are the 3 white cubes though!

Mumokuteki (non-veg)

  • Alliums: Savoury food may contain, check when ordering
  • Alcohol: None tasted, sells alcohol

Popular cafe famous for their vegan desserts. There’s a queue system to manage the crowd. We waited for an hour on a Tuesday afternoon, so I got a light lunch at Miso Pota first. Fish stock is clearly labelled here. Request the English menu from the start if you look Japanese – otherwise they will give you Jap menu. Desserts were truly fantastic, but be prepared to wait. Review.

The most perfect vegan dessert I’ve had! That’s a layer of coffee jelly below.

Philosopher’s Path & Ginkakuji Temple

A picturesque path along a canal that leads to Kyoto’s most famous Zen temple.

Grab some fresh matcha along the shopping street leading to the temple.

Gorey Cafe (vegetarian)

  • Alliums: Can be done without, request when ordering
  • Alcohol: None tasted, shop sells alcohol

Big eaters, rejoice! Japan’s food portions are usually small, but here they can upsize for you – for free! Not exactly local food but offers some interesting and tasty Japanese fusion dishes at a great price. Also had the best vegan pudding here. Review.

Wakame pasta! Wakame is a type of very tender Japanese seaweed.

Grilled Onigiri stall (non-veg, can’t find website)

  • Alliums: Unsure, please check
  • Alcohol: Unsure, please check

A small shop located along the left side of the food street near the entrance of Ginkakuji Temple. 3 onigiris labelled vegan. I didn’t try but it looked good – handmade and grilled in an open kitchen!

There’s a few onigiri shops along the street, this was the only one with vegan labels.

Arashiyama

Kyoto’s most famous mountain sightseeing spot with a sprawling, towering bamboo grove.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.

Shigetsu (vegan)

  • Alliums: None
  • Alcohol: Grilled eggplant’s miso topping had slight alcoholic taste. Sells alcohol.

Known for authentic shojin ryori (Japanese Buddhist cuisine). Authentic means it’s fully vegan and cooked without alliums and alcohol (although certain ingredients used may contain a bit of naturally occurring alcohol). There’s other places that serves shojin ryori but with small amounts of egg and dairy, so don’t assume all shojin ryori dishes are vegan. Offers 3 sets, 2 of them requires reservation through their website. Review.

Shojin ryori is like fine dining!

Demachiyanagi station

A residential area about 30 minutes from Kyoto Station. Walking distance from 3 veg*n spots: Apalila Bakery, Falafel Garden, Riverside Cafe plus my favourite Takoyaki cooking class!

Apelila (vegan)

  • Alliums: Some breads have
  • Alcohol: None tasted, sells alcohol

A cafe and bakery that sells breads made from natural yeast. Every single piece we had here were hearty with just the right bite. Now I wish I booked our Airbnb near here so I could wake up to lovely breads every morning. Review.

So good that I get emotional thinking about it now..

Takoyaki Experimental Class (vegan)

  • Alliums: Can request without
  • Alcohol: None used

Learn to make vegan and gluten-free takoyaki (octopus dumplings) in Kyoto with Sayuri from Vegan X Gluten-free Lab! Fully hands-on and you can make and eat as many as you like. Recipe is pretty straightforward and Sayuri is very kind and patient so you can’t go wrong! The perfect activity for anyone who loves learning about food. Drop Sayuri a message over instagram to arrange! Review.

Go off the beaten tourist paths and learn to make local food with a pro!

 Previous: Tokyo 2 . Next: Osaka

Plant-Based Japan Travel – Tokyo 2

Here’s continuing from the previous list! Here are places quite near or further away from Tokyo’s train stations, and are near the following sightseeing spots. Reference map here.

Notes:

  • Veg*n is a shortened, inclusive term to refer to vegans and vegetarians.
  • This article is solely based on my experiences and research, thus may not represent the whole of Tokyo.
  • Accuracy of information cannot be guaranteed as there may be changes to the eatery’s operations

Edo-Tokyo Museum

It’s not the usual museum where you simply peer into glass cases. The exhibits were thoughtfully designed and brought the atmosphere of ancient Tokyo to life. You can also engage an English volunteer guide for free.

Designed by a famous architect from 1960’s Metabolism movement. Geeky designer moment for me.

Genki Tei (non-veg)

  • Alliums: Might contain, check while ordering
  • Alcohol: None tasted, sells alcohol

A cafe about 5 minutes walk away from Ryogoku Station and 8 minutes to the museum. Located at level 2. Servers could not speak English and had no English menu. Good thing they knew the word vegetarian and confirmed when I asked if something was vegetarian. Has a health grocery shop below with vegan mayo and other packaged foods like instant ramen and sauces. Review.

Brown rice instant ramen, available in 3 flavours (not gluten-free though).

Kanda

We stayed in this women-only capsule hotel 6 minutes from Kanda Station for a night. I won’t recommend staying more than one night. An interesting futuristic experience – capsules were comfortable but offered little soundproofing.

Yasai Izakaya Genki (non-veg)

  • Alliums: Request without while ordering
  • Alcohol: None tasted, shop sells alcohol. Vegan cheesecake has sake lees.

About 8 minutes away from Kanda Station, this vegetable themed izakaya (Japanese bar) can do a vegan okonomiyaki (savoury pancake) and tofu cheesecake. Okonomiyaki is customisable so feel free to make requests. Only has about 6 seats. A little hard to find as it’s in a residential area. The friendly and eccentric owner can speak very good English. Review.

A non-traditional okonomiyaki! Topped with fried mushrooms instead of dried fish flakes.

 

Senso-ji Temple (Asakusa)

Tokyo’s oldest and most famous ancient Buddhist temple with impressive gates. At the tourist information centre opposite the Kaminari gate (first gate with 雷门 lantern) , you can get a printed copy of Tokyo Vege Map.

The kind of place where all your photos will be ruined by tourists :/ .

Nakamise Shopping Street

There are many small shops leading to the temple. Some sell traditional Japanese sweets or snacks that are vegan, like rice crackers (check for fish sauce), yokan (agar based sweet), various mochi and crushed ice (in summer). Note that anything cake or pancake-like in Japan very likely contains eggs and dairy.

Sekai Cafe (non-veg)

  • Alliums: Labelled
  • Alcohol: None

4 minutes walk from Senso-ji. Sekai means world and this cafe aims to cater to people from around the world. They offer options for vegans, allium-free vegetarians, Muslims and gluten-free people. The whole cafe is halal; they also have a branch near Tokyo Sky Tree. The food quality is incredible, but menu is limited and doesn’t offer local food. Provides a printed Muslim-friendly restaurants map. Review.

First time having vegan creme brulee 🙂

Asakusa Ramen Toryanse (non-veg)

  • Alliums: One ramen has, the other doesn’t. Check when ordering.
  • Alcohol: Sells alcohol

In the shopping arcade near the temple. Offers 2 vegetarian ramens at an affordable price. I didn’t eat there, only passed by and saw this banner.

A cheaper option near Senso-ji.

Shimokitazawa

A hipster neighbourhood known for vintage clothes shops and quirky knick-knacks – somewhat like our Haji Lane. Not as crowded as other popular neighbourhoods, perfect for a chill afternoon in a cafe.

Live Juice (vegetarian)

  • Alliums: None
  • Alcohol: Sells amazake

A small smoothie and juice bar where I had the best almond milk ever! Review.

Natural House (non-veg)

Organic health grocery shop next to Shimokitazawa station. Spotted vegan breads, cookies and butter.

Finding vegan breads in Japan is even harder than in Singapore. 99% of supermarket and konbini breads have egg & dairy. Here, the only allergen listed is wheat (小麦).

Ginza

Popular shopping district for international brands, like our Orchard Road. I enjoyed the food here more than the shopping.

Nataraj (vegetarian)

  • Alliums: Present in the buffet, check while ordering
  • Alcohol: None tasted, shop sells alcohol

Indian food was the last thing I expected to eat in Japan as Singapore offers excellent Indian cuisine. We ended up here to take shelter from a sudden typhoon. It turned out to be a great experience – eggs and dairy were labelled clearly and the buffet offered fantastic value for the quality! Even had delicious vegan kheer! Review.

Vegan!! Naan!!

Notable mention

Gonpachi (non-veg)

  • Alliums: Unsure
  • Alcohol: Sells alcohol

Highly recommended by one of my Airbnb hosts. Gonpachi is known as the Kill Bill restaurant because the movie “Kill Bill” was inspired by the restaurant in Nishi-Azabu. They have a branch in Shibuya, Ginza with a vegetarian menu (seems to require reservation). My host recommended me the vegan sushi, but I couldn’t find a chance to visit. Try it and let me know!

Outside Tokyo

Although I didn’t enjoy Tokyo itself that much as it was more overwhelming than Singapore, the day trips offered a much needed respite from the crowds and heat wave.

Kamakura

40 minutes by train from Shibuya station. A coastal town that was once an ancient capital of Japan, thus the many temples. Despite being famous for its Buddhist temples, Buddhist vegetarian food is uncommon here.

Engaku-ji temple’s teahouse.

Cafe Guri (non-veg)

  • Alliums: Present in the soup
  • Alcohol: None tasted, sells alcohol

This is a traditional lacquerware museum’s restaurant, 5 minutes walk away from Kamakura Station. Offers 2 vegan options – a vegan set and udon. Had the best traditional Japanese set meal of my trip here. Review.

I’d travel to Kamakura just to eat this again.

Engaku-ji Temple’s Teahouse (non-veg)

  • Alliums: None
  • Alcohol: None tasted, sells alcohol

This peaceful temple is about 5 minutes from Kita-Kamakura Station (that’s a different station from Kamakura station). The teahouse requires some effort to find. You need to follow the sign that points to the bell, pass by a car park and climb 140 steps up a hill. You’ll be rewarded with exquisite Japanese sweets and a beautiful mountain view. Review.

Dango with roasted malt tea and amazake.

 

Yokohama

Yokohama is a port city about 20 minutes by train from Shibuya station. It was one of the first cities that opened up for trade, thus have plenty of American and European influences.

Red Brick Warehouse. A repurposed historic building on a pier.

Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum (non-veg)

  • Alliums: All veg*n ramen has alliums, but Ryu-Shanghai’s one can be done without
  • Alcohol: Not used in the ramen. All shops sell alcohol.

If you love learning about food and history, this place alone is worth a trip to Yokohama. Showcases ramen’s history and types, plus an area accurately replicating the streets of 60’s Tokyo. The traditional food court offers ramen from various regions of Japan. Vegan, Muslim and alliums information are on their website. Museum shop also sells packet instant vegan ramen. Review.

Never expected vegan tonkotsu (pork bone soup) ramen to exist!

 

Pie Holic (non-vegan)

  • Alliums: None in the apple pie, check before ordering the dinner pie
  • Alcohol: None tasted, sells alcohol

Located in the Marine & Walk building a bit further away from the Red Brick Warehouses. Had a vegan apple pie and apparently serves another savoury vegan one at dinner. American themed but communication was an issue. Seems like none of the servers could speak English and service wasn’t good by Japanese standards. Review.

Lovely pie – perfect portion for an afternoon snack.

Previous: Tokyo Part 1 . Next: Kyoto

Plant-Based Japan Travel – Hokkaido

Hokkaido is best known for postcard perfect winter scenery, nature and the best local produce in Japan. In summer, it has sweeping fields of wheat, flowers and lush green forests. Even though Hokkaido is overall not as veg*n-friendly as Tokyo or Kyoto, it still offers a good amount of veg*n food spots. In fact, I had the best meals of my trip here. Here’s the list of places we ate at and more we discovered along the way.

The following places are mapped here. You can also use this map to get directions, or make a copy to edit it if needed. Highly recommend renting a car, as every destination is quite far apart, especially the food places. We rented ours through HIS Singapore. They advised to avoid driving in winter or after dark.

We usually ate lunch out and cooked simple dinners in our Airbnb. Many eateries aren’t open past 5pm and eating out is more expensive. Most Japan’s Airbnbs allow cooking and will come equipped with basic kitchen supplies, like fridge, stove and microwave.

Notes:

  • Veg*n is a shortened, inclusive term to refer to vegans and vegetarians.
  • This article is solely based on my experiences and research, thus may not represent the whole of Hokkaido.
  • Muslim vegans – here’s a restaurant and hotel guide for Muslim visitors to Hokkaido – vegetarian options indicated.
  • Accuracy of information cannot be guaranteed as there may be changes to the eatery’s operations.

 

Sapporo

The capital of Hokkaido and likely the most veg*n friendly! It was my favourite city out of the 7 we visited. Sapporo seems to be designed as a walkable city (in good weather) with a North American style rectangular street system. The scale of the city feels perfect – vibrant multi-use public spaces, low buildings framing an endless blue sky that meets mountains. If you’re looking for a mild temperature, quieter place to relax in with all the amenities of a city, visit Sapporo in summer.

Here’s the Muslim-friendly map for Sapporo, but not all the places listed may have veg*n food. The Samurai Ramen is vegan too! Note that Iki Laboratory closes end September 2018.

New Chitose Airport Domestic Terminal

Ajisai (non-veg)

  • Alliums: Does not seem present, recommend to state while ordering
  • Alcohol: None tasted, shop sells alcohol

Short walk from the arrival terminal. Available in shio (salt) and soy sauce flavour, I requested no egg just in case. Although it was just veggies, mushrooms and noodles, it was tasty, hit the spot after a long flight, with a generous amount of wok-hei. Review.

Slightly salty – but that’s normal in Japan.

Near Sapporo Station

There’s a few non-veg places with vegan food (mainly sushi places) in the malls connected to Sapporo station. Sapporo Station is huge and quite confusing, so ask the station staff or information counter for directions. Simply show them the name or address in Japanese and they can tell you which way to go.

Off Grid Physical Cafe (vegan)

  • Alliums: Present, they can do allium-free if given advance notice
  • Alcohol: None tasted, shop sells alcohol

About 10min walk from Sapporo Station, and one of the rare vegan places that are open till late for dinner. A bit hard to find as it’s in a residential area and the sign is small. Located on the second floor, take the elevator up. Review.

The kelp soup was incredible!

Petit Caco (vegan)

  • Alliums: None
  • Alcohol: Some desserts may contain it, please check

Handmade raw vegan cakes! On the pricey side but I highly recommend trying one or two pieces because they were amazing! Hands down the best raw vegan desserts I’ve tasted. They can also do whole birthday cakes. Reveiw.

They were as good as they looked.

Maruyama Koen

A few places are concentrated around this area. There’s about 4 veg*n eateries, 1 bakery and 1 health shop near Maruyama Koen station. I’ll recommend getting an Airbnb in this area to have easy access to lunch, ready-made foods and groceries for breakfast and dinner. 

Aoi Sora (vegan)

  • Alliums: Unsure – not tasted in the food, please check.
  • Alcohol: Unsure – no tasted in the food, please check. Shop may sell alcohol.

Cozy, amazing food, friendly English-speaking staff with English menu. Serves delicious and healthy Japanese-style meals with some gluten-free bakes at the counter. Reveiw.

We waited quite a bit for this – but it was totally worth the wait.

Huluta Pan (vegan)

  • Alliums: Present in some items, please check
  • Alcohol: Likely not present, please check

Sapporo’s only pure vegan bakery with incredible breads made from natural yeast. There’s no seats inside so we stood outside to eat (eating while walking is considered rude in Japan). Reveiw.

Try their black sugar muffins!

Rarubatake (non-veg*n)

A health shop with lots of vegan groceries like soy mayo, vegan brown rice instant noodles, organic fruits and veggies. Not everything here is vegetarian. Right beside Huluta Pan.

Also bought the yummiest silken tofu from this fridge.

 

Asahikawa

Asahikawa may be Hokkaido’s second largest city, but its not known to be a tourist centre. We ended up staying here because our Airbnb country house in Biei got cancelled due to Japan’s new home sharing laws. The nearest available one was here. It turned out to be a great thing as there were plenty of good food in this city!

Here’s the Muslim-friendly map for Asahikawa, but not all the places listed may have veg*n food.

Asahikawa City Centre

Cafe 0831 (vegan)

  • Alliums: Some dishes contain it, please check
  • Alcohol: Smoothie contains amazake, please check

Incredibly friendly folks serving up healthy fusion food in a peaceful and cozy cafe. The guy, Koji, speaks fantastic English and made us feel at home! Note that it’s located at the corner of outside a building so keep your eyes peeled. We had a great value lunch set complete with smoothie, soup, rice, 4 side dishes, cookies and dandelion coffee. Reveiw.

The croquette was our favourite!

Asahikawa Station

Dapas Bakery (non-veg*n)

  • Alliums: Some breads contain it
  • Alcohol: Some bakes may contain it

Allergens clearly listed. The lady at the counter understood basic English and could recommend which drink had no dairy. Breads were crisp outside and soft inside – heavenly. Reveiw.

The Americano was bad though. Seems like they usually depend heavily on milk and sugar to flavour coffee.

Near Asahikawa Airport

Maru Soba (non-veg*n)

  • Alliums: Some dishes have, can request without
  • Alcohol: Shop sells alcohol

Homely restaurant in the owner’s house. Specialises in traditional handmade soba. Hands down the best meal I had in the whole of my Japan trip! The lime soba had only 3 ingredients but the flavours were so uplifting and memorable. Review.

Only available during summer. No it’s not too sour – Japanese lime is different from our lime.

Notable mentions

Cafe de Amahoro (vegan)

  • Alliums and alcohol: Can request without while ordering

This is not a physical cafe, but the lady lives within Asahikawa and can do vegan bentos. You can order by messaging her over Facebook. I recommend it if you’re going to somewhere without foods you can eat.

Furano

Furano is famous for seasonal flowers. In summer, lavender is in bloom, which attracts hordes of domestic and Asian tourists.

Farm Tomita

Navo (vegan)

  • Alliums: Unsure
  • Alcohol: Sells alcohol

We attempted to go there after visiting Farm Tomita as it was the nearest (about 10 mins drive). We reached at 1.30pm and was surprised to see it’s closed, even though their Facebook indicated open. The lady there was very apologetic that lunch was sold out. A local vegan later told me that their opening hours are quite irregular despite serving good food. Still an option in this area, but recommend to PM them over Facebook before visiting.

Ramen Restaurant Shojikimura (non-veg*n)

  • Alliums: Unsure
  • Alcohol: Seems to sell alcohol

Didn’t go here but it’s highly recommended by a nice local vegan lady we met. Has at least one vegan ramen. Also within Furano, walking distance from Navo.

Mamedetassha (vegan)

  • Alliums: Some dishes contain it, request without while ordering
  • Alcohol: None

Slightly outside Furano. After visiting Navo only to find it’s closed, we drove 20mins here – and had the best curry and corn dishes! A homely cafe in a wooden house, run by a couple. Has an English menu and the friendly guy who cooks can speak basic English. Review.

I had the simple set – was quite filling, fresh and great value for money!

 

TOmamu ski resort

The only major hiccup in our travel plan happened here. Contrary to my expectations, this popular ski resort is not vegan-friendly, despite hosting many foreign visitors (which is why I advise to carry backup energy bars when travelling). But if you are lacto-ovo-veg, Afuri can make a vegetarian ramen (noodles have egg). Party Deli Green Package had some Italian-style side dishes that seemed vegan but they were served cold. Altezza Tomamu is an Italian restaurant so they might have vegan dishes, but it’s expensive. We came here mainly to see Tadao Ando’s Chapel on the Water, but it was closed for a wedding – only then we found out that it’s open during dark hours, which are not good times to drive. We had a light lunch of Hokkaido potatoes and melon from some small stalls on the resort grounds. Although not the most substantial, we enjoyed it as it was the first time we had fresh local produce.

Hokkaido melon is as sweet as legend says!

Previous: Preparation . Next: Tokyo Part 1

 

Plant-Based Travel in Japan – Preparation

Japan is not as friendly to vegans and vegetarians, compared to other developed countries. Despite that, we never went hungry! I’m sharing my experience as a vegan visiting Japan + what I’ve learnt in my 28 days trip, and the places where we had incredible food!

Notes:

  • Veg*n is a shortened, inclusive term to refer to vegans and vegetarians.
  • We visited Sapporo, Asahikawa, Tokyo, Yokohama, Kamakura, Kyoto and Osaka. These articles are solely based on my own experiences and research, thus may not represent the whole of Japan.

 

Problems you may FACE in Japan:

Lack of idea ABOUT what vegan/vegetarian is

Japan is full of Buddhist temples, but don’t expect to find Buddhist vegetarian food as easily as in Singapore. In large cities, there’s better understanding due to a more international population, but you still can’t expect every place to have veg*n dishes. A quick browse in all the vegan/vegetarian Japan facebook groups shows that most of the members are expats or tourists. Veg*nism seem to be a new concept to most local Japanese.

The word for “vegan” is ビーガン or ヴィーガン. But, not everyone knows what it means. There’s also no vegetarian or vegan labelling for packaged foods, and most of the ingredients are in Japanese. Slightly easier if you can read Chinese. But if you can’t, join the Is It Vegan Japan, Vegan Supermarket Finds in Japan and Vegan Japan Facebook groups to familiarise yourself with how the vegan foods look like.

The Chinese word commonly used for vegetarian does not carry the same meaning in Japan! This is shellfish stock.

Fish is a common seasoning

Since Japan traditionally depended greatly on the sea for sustenance, fish as a basic seasoning is already ingrained in society, mainly in the form of katsuobushi. Fish is in certain soy sauces, miso pastes, soup stock and other seasonings. Sometimes dried fish flakes (bonito) are used on a topping even in vegetable dishes. Fish parts are also used to make dashi, a traditional soup stock used in many dishes. It’s so common and invisible that even servers who may know what veg*n means may still forget about the little bit of fish in sauces. Which is why being specific helps more instead of saying “vegetarian”.

Miso soup can often contain fish sauce or stock, so it was one dish that I ate only at veg*n places.

Communication

The level of English varies between age groups – generally younger Japanese people seem to have better English. 90% of Japanese people I met understood basic to moderate English; the other 10% of the time I used gestures, Google Translate or pictures (I highly recommend getting a good connection on your phone). So that wasn’t a major issue through my trip. The main issue is that most people don’t understand “vegan” and many still think fish sauce is okay for veg*ns.

VEGETABLE-BASED doesn’t mean veg*n

Japan loves veggies (yasai). Even the convenience stores stock fresh produce. Cafes proudly advertise that they use a large variety of veggies. Just because something looks like only veggies and tofu doesn’t mean it’s automatically vegan. It’s likely to be cooked in meat or fish stock, with small bits of meat. Common dishes like “vegetable curry” or “vegetable soup” from a non-veg place, very likely have pork or fish in the soup base.

“Summer Veggie Bento” that has chicken, egg and milk listed in the allergens.

Alliums

Japanese use a lot of alliums in cooking to give the umami and pungency. The good thing is that awareness of allium-free diets seems quite common in the veg*n places. “Oriental vegetarian/vegan” is the term used locally to describe this requirement. I realised it’s quite common for servers at veg*n places to double check if you can take alliums, or have labelling of such information in the menu. Many places also can do allium-free meals if given advance notice.

The words for each type of allium to help you in a pinch:

  • Onion = 葱, ねぎ (negi)
  • Garlic = ニンニク (ninniku)
  • Leek = ネギ, ねぎ (also negi)
  • Chives = ニラ (nira)
  • Asafoetida = アサフェティダ (not commonly used in Japanese cooking)
  • Without = なし (nashi)

Alcohol

90% of eateries serve alcohol like beer or sake. Japanese use a lot of alcohol ingredients like sake, mirin, sake lees and amazake in food. Also, fermented foods like miso have small amounts of alcohol which is a result of the natural fermentation process. So what you can eat depends on how strict you need to be. I’ve also seen alcohol used in packaged foods too. The kanji surely means alcohol is present. For my list, I will try my best to indicate if alcohol is present.

Some common alcohol ingredients:

  • 酒 = sake, generic word for alcohol
  • 味醂, みりん = mirin (a type of rice cooking wine)
  • 甘酒 = Amazake (low alcohol content fermented rice drink)
  • 酒粕 = sake lees (pulp left from sake production)

Note for vegan Muslim friends: I’ve not seen halal certifications displayed in Japan. Thus if you visit a non-veg place, there’s high chance of cross contamination with pork, since such ingredients are very commonly used in foods there. Halal Media has a guide for Muslims visiting Japan, but note that most of the eateries listed may not have veg*n food.

getting easier to be veg*n in Japan!

Japan is full of wonderful experiences which you can enjoy regardless of what your diet is. Awareness of veg*nism is spreading thanks to:

2020 Tokyo Olympics

The Olympics will bring even more veg*n tourists to Japan. NGOs like Tokyo Smile Veggies and Japan Vege Project are campaigning for more local restaurants to offer veg*n dishes. The Tokyo government is actively pushing for locals to learn English. Pretty sure if you visit closer to 2020, there’ll be more options available with less communication barriers.

Vege Project is now actively helping veg*ns live easier in Japan.

Allergen information

Japan takes food allergies seriously and is very transparent in regards to allergen information. Allergens are clearly labelled in almost all food places and on food products. The allergens that are required to be declared include egg, dairy, certain seafood and meats. Thanks to this, it’s pretty easy to spot the veg*n option. Note that some Japanese may not know the English word for allergens, so use “arerugi アレルギー” if needed. This helped me once while searching for vegan breads on a supermarket shelf. The store assistant only understood “arerugi information” and even helped read out the ingredients!

Allergies = アレルギー (arerugi)

Very common to see food allergens listed, like this vegan bento from Tokyo Station.

It’s really quite easy – if you stick to tourist areas

In most areas where tourists or expats visit, you’ll have the least problems finding veg*n food. People there are more used to communicating in English and might have served a few veg*ns before you. But if you go outside of these areas, you have to be more prepared by packing something in advance. Note that some areas that serve mainly domestic or China tourists have very little or no veg*n food due to lack of demand. Eg: Tomamu Ski Resort in Hokkaido.

Food in Japan is SO GOOD.

Japan’s food is the best quality food I have ever had so far. Although it’s more expensive than Singapore’s, I seldom felt disappointed as the taste, freshness, service and creativity are MUCH better! This alone is worth looking forward to and doing more research on.

One of the best Japanese style meals we had from Aoi Sora Cafe.

 

To-do before GOING:

Have a list of the places to eat at

1.Happy Cow Japan’s listing

Note that Happy Cow has its limitations. They prefer to list vegan or vegetarian places to support them – which is a great initiative. But, it excludes many non-veg places that may offer veg*n dishes, and in certain situations (eg, your non-veg family want to eat seafood) that’s not the most practical. Sometimes the information (eg hours, address) listed may not be updated, as restaurants tend to prefer to update their own website or social media first, so follow the restaurant’s Facebook page for updates.

2. Facebook groups

Join the Facebook groups for more information and get the latest news on which products are vegan, events, new places opening, new menus, places closing etc. Also great way to know which packaged foods are vegan so you can buy them without worries!

3. Japan Vegemap

I think this map is constantly updated by Japan Vege Project, and is currently not fully complete. There’s places I visited in Hokkaido that aren’t listed. Thus I will share my own google maps but I recommend that you check back to this map in future. They also provide printed maps for Tokyo and Kyoto.

4. abillionveg

This is a new platform that helps you find vegan and vegetarian dishes from anywhere in the world. The last time I checked, there’s plenty of reviews from Tokyo. Download it for free from the app or play store. I highly recommend posting your dish and product reviews. Not only each post contributes $1 to an animal welfare group, you’re also helping others to find food easily and you can give private feedback to businesses through the app too. Here are my reviews from Japan.

Plan around food

One main reason for my visit was to enjoy foods that I can’t get in Singapore! So I planned all our accommodations and schedule around veg*n places that are highly recommended by locals and expats. I had half a year to plan, so I found plenty of places to explore. In fact I only visited 60% of my to-eat list in the end.

If you don’t have control over your schedule and place to stay, don’t worry too much. Most convenience shops (konbinis) in cities have good and cheap options, such as rice balls, sushi, salads, snacks and ready-to-eat tofu. As usual, be careful of hidden animal ingredients in seemingly vegan foods. Konbinis are everywhere (sometimes 4 together in a spot) and literally do everything for you, including heating the meal for free. Here’s the most complete list of vegan finds at konbinis. Here’s a video of vegan food in 7-11.

 Budget more for food

Eating out is generally pricier in Japan compared to most Asian countries, and pure veg*n places are usually more expensive. Veg*n cuisine is seen as healthy and organic food with Western influences. This is the main reason I booked Airbnbs so that we could cook. An average meal for one in Tokyo can be $10-$20, while $20 groceries can make about 2-3 meals for one person. We could also do laundry without additional costs.

If you really don’t wish to cook (although I’d recommend it if you’re on a budget), you can depend more on konbini foods, or dine at the chain eateries which offer veg*n dishes.

Some places that serve meals below 1000Y:

  • Cocoichibanya (some outlets have vegetarian menu),
  • Chabuton (all outlets have vegan ramen and gyoza, soy sauce at the table has fish)
  • Soup Stock Tokyo (at least 1 vegan soup)
  • Kyushu Jangara Ramen (all outlets have a vegan ramen that can be done without alliums)
  • Afuri (Only Tokyo outlets have seasonal vegan ramen)
  • Sushi belt places (Often have veggie sushi. Bring your own soy sauce – usually provided ones have fish. Some konbinis and supermarkets have this mini soy sauce!)

Learn Basic food-related lingo

Here’s some handy language card. If you have to go to a non-veg place and may face communication issues, flash this.

Printable vegan card.

You’ll likely need packaged foods during your trip. Almost all labels are written in Japanese and there’s no vegan labelling there. Here’s where you can learn useful words and phrases:

Important note for those who look like Japanese people

Most locals, at first sight, seem to automatically assume that those with East Asian features are Japanese. Sometimes, even if I spoke English to them in the first place, they still thought I’m Japanese – so they replied in fast Japanese or gave Japanese printed materials. This caused some miscommunications and awkward moments. If you’re not confident speaking their language, I suggest you speak English first and ask for English menu from the start. You can use Japanese words to assist if needed. This is so that they know that you aren’t local and adjust the service to help you better.

During your visit, please double-check information

Many veg*n restaurants are small businesses run by individuals or one family. Their opening hours may be irregular as they have less manpower compared to large chains. For example, in Hokkaido, most places only do lunch and require a reservation if you want dinner. In Tokyo, some places are only open for weekday lunch. Some can be closed for few days during public holidays. Before visiting, best to contact, or at least check their social media pages for latest updates. I used Facebook messaging to check directly if they were open. All of them could reply in English, and were very friendly and welcoming!

A message I sent to confirm opening time.

Although it seems like quite a bit of work to prepare for a holiday, these are guaranteed to make your visit in Japan incredible. You’ll be rewarded with a richer experience and your taste buds will be delighted at what Japan has to offer!

Next – Plant-Based Travel: Hokkaido

 

Veganuary Recipes: No-Cook One-Pot Noodles Series

Veganuary is a movement from the UK that encourages people to start a new year on a healthy note. Participants try a vegan lifestyle (to the degree that they are comfortable with) for a month till 31st Jan. If you’re trying it out, or just wish to change your eating habits this year, here’s a method to make a meal that’s incredibly easy without cooking and it’s not salad!

I’ll be posting as a series of 3 recipes this month. My nutritionist friend Krystle will calculate the nutritional breakdown for all 3 recipes in this series.

Making an “instant’ meal

If you have access to boiling water, you can prepare a decent balanced meal. No stove top or oven cooking needed put it together. I make these type of meals in 2 situations:

  1. At previous workplaces located far from affordable vegetarian stalls.
  2. When travelling in areas where clean and cheap vegan food is unavailable.
Just need to add boiling water and cover for 5 minutes.

Sounds like cup noodles, but don’t worry, it is way healthier than that. But like everything else, it has pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Fast way to make a hot meal.
  • Way more nutritious and filling than convenience meals.
  • Portable. Simply keep in a container (must be suitable for holding hot food) and add boiling water when you want to eat.
  • Customisable.

Cons:

  • Not all ingredients will turn out tasty with this method.
  • Still need to wash, cut and pre-cook certain ingredients.
  • Boiling water is preferred (ie, water that’s just boiled). Hot water may not have enough heat to soften the carbs and other harder ingredients.

Firstly, my definition of a balanced meal is one that has carbohydrates (preferably complex carbs), vitamins (mainly veggies) and protein (from legumes, tempeh, tofu or wheat).

Secondly, using ingredients that can be cooked thoroughly with boiling water is most important. That means softer items, unless you truly don’t mind eating hard and half raw things.

Here’s a quick list of items that can work, all are available from various supermarkets and wet markets:

Carbs:

  • Soft thin noodles (brown rice noodles, certain brands of tung hoon)
  • Instant wheat noodles (for healthier option, buy those that have whole grains and are baked not fried)
  • Cooked rice
  • Cooked starchy plants (sweet potato, potato, pumpkin)
  • Instant oats

Plants:

  • Soft leafy greens (spinach, coriander, bak choy, etc. Avoid stems in certain veggies like kai lan)
  • Cooked hard veggies (broccoli, cauliflower)
  • Plants that are edible raw (tomato, bell peppers, carrots, zucchini)
  • Pickled or fermented veggies (kimchi, achar)

Protein:

  • Packaged silken tofu (all packaged tofu are ready to eat)
  • Soft dried soy products (Thin beancurd skin, tau pok)
  • Cooked legumes (cooked lentils, canned beans, etc)
  • Seitan (dried Japanese types or canned ready-to-eat types, those are available from NTUC)

I generally avoid putting the container into the fridge when bringing to office. I’ll always keep it in a thermal bag to keep it as cool as possible. Because it brings down the temperature, which causes the items to not cook fully after filling with boiling water. Thus, I avoid coconut milk based items and fresh market tofu, as they can spoil fast in our room temperature.

Ingredients list

Here are the ingredients I used for this recipe, where I purchased and their prices. Most of them (except the noodles) are also common items I use in daily meals.

For fresh veggies, try to purchase them from wet markets as they are much fresher and sometimes cheaper. Prices will vary depending on stall.
Use a large bowl or container to prevent hot water from spilling.

 

RECIPE: NO COOK MISO NOODLES

  • 1 serving instant wheat noodles, no seasoning packet needed (I used Koka purple wheat as it’s non-fried and partial wholegrain, some NTUCs sell it without seasoning packets.)
  • 2-3 bunch (50g) spinach, stems removed (spinach stems are usually too tough to chew.)
  • Half block (150g) silken tofu  (I used sprouted organic one from NTUC.)
  • 10g beancurd skin, rinsed (Rinsing helps to remove sulphates which are used in certain brands.)
  • 1 heaping tbsp white miso (Some miso pastes have bonito or fish, always check before buying.)
  • Small handful (50g) enoki mushroom (Other mushrooms may not be fully cooked with this method, certain mushrooms cannot be eaten raw.)
  • 30g carrot, julienned (Use a julienne peeler to save time.)
  • Chopped spring onions, to garnish
  • White pepper, to garnish
  • 1 tsp sesame oil, to garnish
  • Ready-to-eat seaweed, to garnish

Bring water to a boil in a kettle. Combine noodles, spinach, beancurd skin, miso, enoki and carrot in a large heatproof bowl/container. Pour boiling water till all ingredients are covered well. Cover and wait for 5mins. Dissolve the miso. Add garnishes and serve hot.

Don’t let the noodles sit for too long, it will get soggy.

 

Nutritional Information

Krystle is a freelance plant-based nutritionist and group fitness instructor, check her out here.

Here’s Krystle’s nutritional breakdown of the dish (source: myfitnesspal) :

Nutritional comments:

This is a perfect example of a healthy, balanced meal. It has a balanced amount of carbohydrates, protein, fat and other important vitamins, minerals and fiber. It has no trans fat and no cholesterol – both are known to increase risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Vegetables and whole wheat noodles helps to promote good blood sugar control and keeps you full for a longer time.

Tofu and Green Leafy vegetables are contains calcium and iron. Although the bioavailability of iron and calcium in plant based foods is not as high as animal based foods, it can still be a part of a healthy diet without the hormones and saturated fats from animals based foods. You can increase iron absorption by having a fruit high in vitamin C such as oranges as dessert. Limit your tea and coffee intake especially during your meal times as it further prevents the absorption of iron.
Spinach’s calcium is not readily absorbed in our body due to the presence of oxalic acid. However, it should be the least of our worries as we should always eat a varied diet to get enough calcium from many different healthy sources. Other calcium containing foods includes other green leafy vegetables, beans, legumes, chia seeds, fortified soy milk etc. Calcium from legumes are more easily absorbed than those from leafy greens.

Remember to get enough sunlight to boost your vitamin D levels to increase the absorption of calcium. Exercising regularly also strengthen our bones and muscles.

The carrots and spinach is high in Vitamin A in the form of beta carotene. It is an antioxidant that is great for your eyes and skin.

Sodium is high in this dish due to the amount of miso used. If you are watching your blood pressure, use low sodium condiments or drink less of the soup. You may use more spices and herbs like nutritional yeast, black pepper, spring onion, parsley, basil, mint which helps to add flavour without needing additional sodium.

This dish roughly provides the following recommended daily amounts (RDA) for healthy adults aged 18-60 years old. Note that percentages will differ among individuals. (Source: Health Hub SG)

  • 36% of protein for males, 42% of protein for females
  • 85% of iron for males, 28% of iron for females
  • 33% – 40% of fiber
  • 115% of calcium
  • 114% of Vitamin A

Next in the series will feature a Tom Yum rice noodles recipe made with the same method together with Krystle’s nutritional analysis, stay tuned!

 

One-pot meals basics part 3 – cooking times

Last post on my approach to Asian – inspired one pot meals, following the past pantry basics and flavour + texture posts. People seem to have a misconception that cooking takes hours. Not at all!

General guide on cooking times (No rules written in stone – it’s common sense, intuition, experience, personal preference!) :

1) Smaller/softer things need less time to be cooked than larger/harder ones. Dried noodles take longer than soft ones. Whole beans take MUCH longer to soften than split lentils. For harder-to-cook things like whole beans and potatoes, boil a big batch at one go, freeze in portions. Then they only need a couple minutes to be warmed. For tough veggies like broccoli, breaking into smaller pieces greatly reduces cooking time.

2) Some things are already cooked. Tofu, seitan and many processed soy products aren’t raw in their packaged form. Cooking them is to rid germs and impart flavour, thus only short heating (or even none if preferred) is needed. My fastest way to enjoy silken tofu is soak in hot water for 5 mins, drain and drizzle with sauce.

3) Don’t overcook. When green veggies turn yellowish under heat, they are overdone and have lost crispness and nutrients. Green leafies just need 30 seconds to a minute blanched in hot water to be done!

Continuing on last post’s working-with-whatever-in-fridge miso udon example, you can heat everything at once in a pot – but you may find tomatoes raw tasting and spring onions tasteless.

Here’s the sequence for max flavour:

1) Bring mushrooms, soaking water and additional 2 cups water to a boil in a pot.
2) Add ginger, spices and tomatoes, simmer at low-medium heat for 2-3mins until tomatoes soften.
3) Add pre-cooked yams and soaked lentils. Simmer at low-medium for 2mins.
4) In goes udon, simmer for just under a minute. Off heat.
5) Stir in miso and sprinkle spring onions. A drizzle of sesame oil and white
pepper will round up flavours perfectly. Dinner served in 10 minutes!

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So to round things up, one-pots are the easiest hot meals to make everyday. Just keep in mind the simple basics of having a balanced pantry, know what gives flavours and/or textures and try not to undercook or overcook ingredients. Soon you can intuitively compose filling meals from anything in no time.

Here’s some other examples of one-pots (and their ingredients) I made and posted on my instagram, for ideas (I’m an incurable noodle lover, you can use any carbs or grains preferred.)

eg

1) Carbs: Brown rice soya noodles. Protein: Pre-soaked roasted barley, edamame. Vitamins: Bamboo shoots, seaweed, edamame, enoki mushroom. Seasonings: Miso paste, sliced green chilli in soy sauce, sesame oil.

2) Carbs: White rice & quinoa. Protein: Quinoa, ground flaxseed powder. Vitamins: Onion stalks, red chilli, curry leaves. Seasonings: Grapeseed oil, sea salt, lemongrass.

3) Carbs: Rice noodles. Protein: Pan-fried tofu, fermented black beans. Vitamins: Cucumber, tomatoes. Seasonings: Sea salt, curry powder, coconut milk.

4) Carbs: Sweet potatoes. Protein: Pre-soaked red lentils. Vitamins: Okra, tomatoes. Seasonings: Sea salt, black pepper, olive oil.

Hope this series can give you confidence to step in the kitchen and take control of what you eat!

One-pot meal basics part 2 – flavour and texture

After part 1 on pantry basics, here’s the ingredients combining part of our one-pot miso udon. Cooking is a simple exercise in layering flavours with textures. Almost all foods give some texture, but not all can impart flavour.

It’s important to note that besides salty, sour, sweet and bitter, there’s a fifth sense of taste – umami (In Chinese it’s described as 鲜味). It’s the rich, appetite-inducing, lip-smacking savoury taste that characterizes soy sauce. It’s wrongly called the ‘meaty taste’ and while it’s true that glutamates, the amino acid responsible for umami, is higher in animal flesh, people forget that it occurs in plenty of plants too. Plant – based sources of umami include tomatoes, Chinese cabbage, fermented and pickled foods, green jackfruit, mushrooms, seaweeds, and many more! It takes more skill to coax it out from plants than from meat. Personally I believe that understanding umami and knowing how to layer it with other flavours is the key to making Asian vegan dishes delicious.

On to our one-pot example, miso udon’s ingredients and their roles. Of course it isn’t like the traditional dish, but point here is that seemingly random things in the fridge can be made to work as a tasty meal.

598

Flavour givers:
5 dried straw and shiitake mushrooms soaked in hot water – as flavour base.
1 tomato, cut into wedges – adds tangy and umami taste.
6 small pieces of sliced ginger – uplifting fragrance complements earthy miso and enhancing umami.
A few spices (black cardamom, star anise and Chinese red pepper) – enriches soup with smoky and warm tones.
4 stalks spring onion, chopped – gives an onion-like hint.
1 tablespoon miso – adds salt, umami and earthy tones.

Texture givers:
1 pack udon noodles – main carbs, chewy and makes the meal filling.
3 pre-steamed yams – thickens soup while adding chunks of starchy textural interest.
Large handful of pre-soaked frozen split lentils – thickens soup and adds protein.

Here’s how everything melds together, plus possible ingredient substitutes for allergies/religious dietary restrictions:

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Have an end flavour & texture in mind before cooking. Want less chewy noodles? Use thin rice noodles. More spice? Add chilli. Want less umami, more sour? Omit mushrooms, use tamarind instead of tomato. Don’t take onion/garlic? Garnish with parsley/coriander.

For daily meals just work with whatever there is – no need to fuss over what you have or don’t. Relax, enjoy the process of discovering new combinations and feeding loved ones!

Next > cooking times – how not to under or overcook.

one-pot meals part 1 – pantry basics

I’m sure many of our new year’s resolution is to eat healthier or better – but that’s not quite possible if one eats out every meal. Cooking your own is not only cheaper but multiple times healthier. Being a typical busy person (once architecture student, now working full time), I do prepare meals nearly daily. My daily cooking is simply anything in the fridge cooked in a single pot. 10 – 15mins prep + 5-10mins heating + 20-30mins eating + 10mins cleaning =  1 hour, about the same time as going to a food court, queuing, ordering, waiting, finding a seat and eating.

Here’s a series of 3 posts as a starter’s guide to one-pot meals, the easiest way to make hot meals, using a worked-with-what-I-had version of miso udon soup as example. No previous kitchen experience needed!

One-pot meals are all about 3 basic principles – Pantry basics, combining flavours and textures and cooking times.

This first post is generic pantry & food prep basics:

–  Go for ingredients that needs minimal preparation and low cooking time – I usually just rinse and cut or even break with hands. Some from my list are tomatoes, string beans, okra, tofu, tempeh, seitan, dried beans, broccoli, snow peas, beansprouts, leafy greens with soft stems (without roots). No peeling, de-seeding, multiple washing needed for them! Here, spring onions are a great topping as you simply need to wash and cut it.
Balance – Every meal should have carbs (rice, noodles, quinoa, bread), protein (tofu, tempeh, seitan, legumes, nuts) and vitamins (mushrooms, veggies, fruit). To retain nutrients in veggies, best is to add them at the last stage of cooking then turn off heat – which sacrifices flavour sometimes.
Pre-cooking or soaking in bulk. The soaking water of cleaned dried mushrooms is a gem as a broth base. I also steam/boil a couple of starchy plants like potato, yam, sweet potato and take them from the fridge when needed. For lentils and beans I soak and boil them in bulk, then portion and freeze them in small bags. Of course canned legumes, being pre-cooked, are the quickest, but they are more expensive! For this miso udon I used pre-cooked red lentils for protein and few pieces of pre-steamed taro to thicken the soup.
Frozen foods are a good time saver. My usual are edamame, peas, carrots and corn. They just need 2-3 minutes cooking to be done.
Condiments, sauces and spices should be always present in a well-stocked pantry. They give taste immediately and can take anything up to another level. Here, miso is the main condiment with white pepper and sesame oil as supporting flavours.

Here’s an overview of the basic food groups from my pantry. Bought all of them at the usual supermarkets and wet markets.

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Having 1-2 items from each group can guarantee you satisfying and nutritious meals! Have fun mixing and matching.

Next post > basics of flavours & textures

How to Be a Herbivore in Singapore Part 7 – Facing Challenges & Getting Support From The Community

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(Volunteers of AASG. Thanks Mike for the photo!)

Previous: 01 why vegan . 02 nutrition . 03 cooking . 04 groceries . 05 social eating . 06 eating at hawker centres

From my 23 years of being veg*n, I’ve met more genuinely curious people instead of condescending ones. However, do be prepared to be scrutinized, judged and ridiculed by (hopefully) the minority. Who would’ve thought by choosing not to eat certain things will invite so much uncalled-for reactions? New veg*ns, or anyone interested – be prepared, as these can make or break your goals.

The challenges we face can be categorised into 2 types – food and people. Despite popular assumptions, it’s not the food but the people around us who make the most barriers.

 

Food-related challenges:

“But I can’t give up____(insert animal product here)”

That’s okay! Simply start by eliminating those you can drop first. If my veggie-hating friend Lisha can do it, so can you. Here’s her story:

Initially, I craved meat, eggs, dairy since that was largely part of my diet. Before allowing myself to have any of that, I would first eat something vegan, like rice and beans, fruits, a burrito etc. I would only allow myself to eat non-vegan foods after I was done having a good sized vegan meal. Almost every single time, I did not crave anything else after being eating it. Once you are nourished and filled, your cravings for what you normally desire (meat, dairy and eggs) will decrease.

On the rare occasion when I did crave for animal products after eating, I would eat it mindfully. This means, no distractions – just me and my food. I would savor it, noticing aromas, different flavours of the various components and texture.  I would also observe how I felt throughout the meal in a non judgmental manner (feelings of guilt etc). During this whole process, I was fully aware of where the food came from (be it a suffering cow, or slave labor in the seafood industry). These helped form my conscious and ethical eating habits, which lead to conscious and ethical living.

Be grounded in your reasons. Self-reminders are a powerful way to change taste buds.

When you start to reduce something you greatly enjoyed, having cravings are perfectly normal. Food cravings are actually your body indicating a lack of certain nutrients? Next time when sugar cravings hit, grab some medjool dates instead of candy. Your body will thank you!

This was also how I weaned off junk food addiction. I found same levels of enjoyment and higher levels of health benefits by snacking on coconut chips, dark chocolate, chestnuts, dates instead of Kit Kats and Skittles which made me feel sick after a temporary high.

To make transition easier, quality mock meats are great. Some really do taste exactly like their meat counterparts! Before criticizing the role of mock meats in a vegan diet, keep in mind that some people need them for transition or whatever reasons to help them stay veg*n. I enjoy eating them occasionally since they can a tasty, convenient option.

Gokul and Eight Treasures is highly recommended as a great place for mock meat dishes (they label vegan/dairy clearly, I really enjoy Gokul’s murtabak). Loving Hut has an excellent beef rendang and a burger with vegan egg. NomVNom has yummy meaty soy patties and Veganburg’s got delicious sausages.

For packaged mock meats, imported Western brands are pricier and usually tastier, Chinese ones are cheaper but not all are tasty. You have to do trial and error to find what you like. Fry’s Braai sausages (Cold Storage & Redmart) have been highly recommended by some friends. Quorn is now retailing at NTUC. Go for established brands with nice packaging and watch out for dairy and egg in the ingredients.

If you like healthier meaty flavours, many plant-based whole foods can be creatively made into juicy meaty textures. Like various mushrooms, coconut, green jackfruit, tofu, tempeh and seitan etc. (Click on the links for recipes!)

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(Char-siu style tempeh from my recipes archive.)

Many of Singapore’s favourite local foods are meat-based – laksa, chicken rice, bak kut teh etc. If you find it hard to “give up” those, rest assured that good vegan versions are available. Hungry Ang Mo has recommendations of excellent local fare.

 “I tried and felt so tired and hungry!”

One big reason people quit being veg*n is that they aren’t equipped with the right nutritional knowledge. Instead of labelling vegetarianism/veganism as a terrible idea, why not ask, “Am I eating well?” Being veg*n DOES NOT mean replacing animal protein with tofu and mock meats. You WILL NOT get enough nutrients by eating only those for protein! To reap maximum health benefits, eat a variety of minimally processed whole foods. Expand your taste buds by trying new foods, finding new ways to cook/eat them and arm yourself with scientifically-verified knowledge of plant-based nutrition. You can start by reading my previous guide on nutrition.

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(If these steriod-free bodybuilders can thrive on plants, so can you! Thanks Luke Tan for the photo.)

“But vegetables taste bad! I hate veggies so I can never go veg*n. ”

Firstly, vegetables makes up about 20% of the plant-based diet. Rice is a grain, almonds are nuts, chickpeas are legumes, mango is a fruit and mushrooms are not even classified as plants. The idea that veg*ns only eat veggies needs to go!

Secondly, a higher level of skill is required to coax out flavours of plants, that’s why many plant dishes in cheap eateries don’t taste amazing or need lots of MSG and oil. Having eaten one bad vegan dish doesn’t mean all foods in the veganiverse are terrible.

Veggie-hating vegan Lisha, founder of Singapore’s first vegan creamery Peace of Cheese, shares these tips:

  • It’s fine to be vegan without having vegetables, as you can get nutrients in other ways (e.g, pulse sesame seeds into a powder, sprinkle it on peanut butter spread on bread, and pair with orange juice for iron.) Nonetheless we still should try to incorporate them into our diets.
  • Be open to trying new things. If you’ve never tried a certain type of vegetable before, try it! Only when I turned vegan, did I try whole tomatoes in burgers and on pizzas.. and I loved it! If you hated a certain vegetable when you were younger, try it again! If everyone else hates a certain thing, don’t be so quick to assume that you will.
  • Identify what it is you don’t like about vegetables. Is it the taste or texture? We all love vegetables one way or another. After all, meat is marinated with herbs, spices and vegetables. I don’t like the bitter taste of some vegetables and the texture of almost all. I usually have them minced, processed or blended. If it’s the bitterness that you don’t like, try blanching the veggies for a few minutes. Another tip to help with flavour is to start with finely chopped onion and garlic with lots of spices and herbs for taste.
  • Try preparing veggies in different ways. Kale does not taste nice raw or stir fried, but baked in an oven they become crisp and crunchy snacks. I don’t like any mushrooms, except in soups or when they are chopped finely. Also try combining vegetables together. You may not like leek on it’s own, but leek and potatoes is amazing. Lastly, try blending some spinach leaves in your fruit smoothie and you can get greens without tasting grass.
  • Accept that you can’t love them all. It is okay to blacklist certain vegetables. Even the
    most avid vegetable lover will hate some vegetables, and love some more than the other. (Me: True, I hate kale!)
  • Join a potluck in the community. Such is a great way to experiment and test lots of different foods at one shot!
  • Get excited about recipes. This is a vegan recipe page that makes me drool!

“So hard being vegan in Singapore compared to _____ (insert Western country).”

Yes and no. For vegan alternatives foods like non-dairy yogurts, cheeses and ice creams, they are imported chilled and hence too expensive for an average middle class to eat daily. In the West there is more access to meat and dairy alternatives. Demand for such foods in Singapore are not as high as countries like Germany, so it is unrealistic to expect equal levels of convenience and price. Good news is that major retailers are catching up. In recent years there has been a great increase in the non-dairy milk varieties in supermarkets and even Mustafa decided to stock the cheapest vegan cheeses on the island after feedback from the community. Hence, look forward to more vegan processed foods on the shelves!

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(Vegan cheese section at Mustafa. Yes, Mustafa!)

Otherwise, majority of vegan food is NOT expensive. Grains, legumes and seeds based foods are cheaper per calorie than meat and fish while meeting nutritional needs with zero cholesterol. Various vegan meals can be bought in most hawker centres and food courts for under $5. Many traditional snacks and desserts are vegan as coconut milk and agar agar is used instead of cow’s milk and gelatine. Thanks to racial and cultural diversity, we have an astounding amount of cuisines to choose from and tons of ingredients to play with. Oh, and cheap tropical fruits!

 

People-related challenges:

Be familiar with the psychology of defense mechanisms. Plenty of vegan literature has linked it to the crazy reactions we get after casually mentioning our dietary preferences. This reaction can be experience by any group of people in general, not only vegans.

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(Replace “smoke” with “bacon”. Source: Vegan Sidekick)

Simply put, people are fundamentally good at heart. When they see others trying hard to do good, a mirror of self-evaluation pops up in the depths of their psych. I’ve noticed that two reactions can occur:

  • The inspiration and desire to learn, listen and take positive action.
  • A feeling of anxiety and guilt that they themselves are not doing as good or as much as others.

Unfortunately the majority is the latter. Many people don’t have the strength to face facts or make effort to change. Therefore they exhibit the 15 behaviours of defense mechanisms to protect their ego, hide their guilt and to look stronger or feel better. All the negative reactions we face basically stem from this normal, unconscious, primitive human instinct to protect the sense of self. So don’t feel bad when facing such remarks!

Be prepared to meet these types of people after “coming out”.

Type 1: The Judge – Jumps to conclusions based on your race, body size, gender and economic status. You’re Chinese, means you must be a Buddhist because in their understanding no one in the right mind forsakes tasty meat without religious obligation. You’re overweight, so you’re on a fad diet. You’re underweight so you must definitely be malnourished. You’re a male veg*n, so you’re less manly and attractive. You’re vegan, means you must be rich to enjoy organic kale and quinoa salad in a bungalow’s garden! And the ridiculous list goes on. They fail to appreciate people as complex and diverse individuals. Sometimes, it’s the defense mechanism of rationalization. “This person can do it/want to do it because they have the resources/reasons, while I can’t/need not do so.”

How to face them:

1) Show, not tell

If you enjoy yummy food regularly, why not express it? Show the possibilities (laksa, pizza, ice cream and cake etc with ZERO cholesterol?).

  • Social media is a powerful way to show the abundance and positivity of veganism – it is simply great food enjoyed with great friends!
  • Pack your own lunch to school/work if there’s no vegan food near you. When having these lunches with colleagues, they’ll be curious to what you are eating and thus opens the topic. If you’re a good cook/baker, share generously with people by offering to bake or make food for a birthday/event.
  • If you can’t cook, bring people to try great veg*n places to eat – and there are plenty to choose in Singapore!
  • Eat as wholesome as possible. Once people see that you’ve gotten healthier, stronger and happier, they’ll be naturally convinced.
  • Share positive content about veganism. It can be anything, like “Vegans are increasing in population” and “McDonald’s got a new vegan option!”. This shows that it is a positive lifestyle and thus piques people’s curiosity.

I understand as new vegans, emotions of anger and frustrations can overwhelm. Keep in mind that telling people to “go vegan!” or “stop eating meat, it’s bad!” can cause most to activate defence mechanisms and close their minds. Instead, embody the message in your daily actions and speech. I personally prefer engaging in a discussion and sharing only if the other party is truly open. If not, I know that I have left a seed of impression and they may find it when their time comes. Compassion and non-violence applies to people, including you too – strive to be the kindest, most giving and positive version of yourself.

2) Good nature and humor

Humor is mostly always a good idea. Giving people a surprise chuckle or laugh adds a plus to their impression of you, and vegans in general. Also, it can lighten the mood and open the topic for discussion.

(“Where do you get your protein?” “From the bodies of people who ask me this question.”  Picture source: Vegan Sidekick)

When someone provokes you, the bigger your reaction the more satisfied they feel. So take their comments lightly, stand your ground and don’t be affected. My default answer to people who say “I only like meat and hate veggies.” is “Good, more plants for me then!”.

Type 2: The Mr/Ms All-Of-You-Are-The-Same

“Vegans are all:

1) Skinny and tired all the time because of lack of protein.

2) Arrogant, shoving their beliefs down people’s throats.

3) Hipsters who think they are better than everyone else.”

(Refer to this, this and this case for examples of differing media reports on vegans. Source: Vegan Sidekick)

I’ve had this remark many times said in front of me, funnily sometimes by people who don’t know that I’m one! This may be misunderstandings about nutrition, negative media portrayals and simply guilt reflex. Yes, some vegans may be militant and negative, but just like in every group of people there are bad apples.

How to face them:

  • Be your genuine self. Then people around you will realise that vegans can be nice, polite and.. just normal.
  • Share positive news and content about veganism. But don’t keep sharing and talking about only veganism. Work on your own interests and celebrate them just as much.
  • I strongly believe that a happy vegan is more convincing than an angry one. Strive to be someone who spreads positive and uplifting vibes not one who judges others for eating differently.

Type 3: The Nutritionist/Philosopher

As someone who believes that all beliefs can and should be questioned, I actually appreciate such ‘Philosophers” and “Nutritionists”. They can see veganism as beyond a diet and in the contexts of morality, evolution, religion etc. Engaging in a discussion with them can be mind-opening and rewarding for both parties – if done with a respectful attitude. Problem is, some base their arguments on not very substantial research – or maybe even from a single Buzzfeed video.

How to face them, by questioning:

  • Who funded the research? What purpose does the sponsor have by publishing the research?
  • Was it taken out of context? Ask to see the full article/source to fully understand the context. One example is a recent study that found some vegetarians may have better omega-3 conversion. Some media twisted the findings into concluding that vegetarians have higher cancer risk which the researcher dismissed it as misrepresentation.
  • Is the article cited with links to sources and preferably backed by references and bibliographies?
  • What do the critiques of the book/article say?
  • For arguments based on poor facts, simply point them to the right resources and literature, if they are open to it that is 🙂

Type 4: The Clown

Basically, they make remarks with little intellectual basis. I’ve heard plain silly and sexist ones like (besides everyone’s favourite desert island),

“I hate animals therefore I eat them, you must really hate plants.” (Eating animals requires more plants than just eating plants.)

”You can smoke right? It’s a plant!”  (That’s missing the big picture.)

“If you care about animals then roaches should have rights too.”(Seeing how they are going to be milked, yes they should.)

“Vegan girls have small breasts.”(Why are foods that increase breast sizes mainly plants?)

“Vegan girls don’t make good girlfriends as they cannot give blowjobs.” (You’re missing out.)

Eye rolls aside, from a purely psychological point of view, they might have exhausted all means of logical arguments. They are desperate to find fault in your beliefs with non-intellectual insults to trip you emotionally.

Type 5: How to face them:

1) Humour them

A little sarcasm helps to flip the logic the other way, and maybe they will see it!

“Plants have feelings.”

“I appreciate you being a plant activist. So do you avoid fries?” (Thank you Erin!)

“I can never eat veggies, I’m a carnivore.”

“Wow, I’ve never met a carnivore before! Do you order chicken rice without the rice since you don’t eat plants? Where do you get vitamins and fibre? Don’t you get constipated often without fibre?”

“I can never be a carnivore like you; I love durian too much to give them up!”

“I bet you’re gonna kill animals to eat in a desert island.”

“How are the animals alive then?” (A cookie for you if you get it!)

2)   Do not engage. Smile, laugh and walk away. Sometimes, there’s no point feeding the troll.

Type 5: The Ex

People who tried dating veganism and it didn’t work out. Maybe they didn’t eat right and felt worse, can’t give up a certain taste, couldn’t find support, faced inconveniences and huge peer pressure. These people don’t need to be scolded for “not trying hard enough”, but they need support and encouragement! I appreciate people who at least gave it a go. Problem is, some blame the lifestyle for their pitfalls instead of finding solutions and spread that “Veganism is terrible, I lived on vegetables and rice for a week and got sick!”

How to help them:

  • Congratulate them for trying, as most can’t bear to live without animal products for even a day.
  • Secondly, try to understand what went wrong and help him/her solve it.
  • Lastly, encourage and show that you’re also on the same journey! “Hey I’ve been wanting to try this vegan place, heard they’re great, let’s go?”

Type 6: The Authoritarian Parents

For many young new veg*ns, this is one huge barrier. In our somewhat still traditional society, disagreeing with parents or figures of authority in the family is usually a huge no. More conservative families have a “I know what’s best for you so listen to me” reasoning no matter how much scientific facts are presented. It’s understandable as it’s a reaction from a usually respected ego being questioned and the sense of losing control over their child. Since we mostly have to wait till marriage to move out, the pressure and negativity from people who are supposed to love and support can be unbearable.

How to face them:

Here are tips from my friends Amanda and Goat Man (not a real name obviously, he’s shy), 2 young vegans who went through huge resistances from family.

From Goat Man:

My family is vegetarian so food-wise isn’t that hard. But I had debates with them. My dad still doesn’t support me. They get angry when I turn down their offer of dairy food. I didn’t announce that I am vegan immediately as that will really surprise my parents and provoke a greater reaction/resistance. Until they realised I’m not eating eggs and milk, they were surprised and we had a protein debate. They still aren’t convinced that we don’t need eggs and milk for protein. Until now, they are still telling me I should drink milk just because it’s not against our religious beliefs. I learned a lot about all the sort of ways how others argue against veganism from vegans and meat eaters debate groups (warning: trolls, but this is the reality of humanity). That helps to mentally prepare against such onslaughts. I guess it’s better to try to convince them using logic, doing it in a loving and calm manner. My mom noticed I became healthier as a vegan, so she started supporting me and even buys me vegan mock meats. It’s good to cook them some vegan food to try and just be yourself, really. They’ll notice a positive change in you and might be interested in trying vegan too.

From Amanda:

When you’re out with your family and can’t order your own food, pick out the plants from the meat dishes if there is really nothing else for you to eat. (This was what I did back then but nowadays it’s so much easier because there are vegan options almost everywhere.) Don’t get angry or upset at what they say to you. If you get into an argument, always stay calm. If they want to know, use Internet resources to show them what you mean if you can’t explain or prove a point. Take things slowly, if you can’t be a vegan immediately, being vegetarian is good enough. One step at a time, there is no rush especially if the situation is not favourable. Some may tell you being vegetarian is not good enough but it actually really is good enough in certain situations! You cannot “make” anyone vegan or agree with you. But you can influence them, by being happy and healthy, sharing delicious food photos and recipes! People will only accept when they want to open their minds and hearts.

You can be armed with all right facts, but I believe that’s not enough. If you act like a condescending jerk, no one will listen and probably end up hating all vegans. Like my friends mentioned above, positivity is the best way to influence! Understanding how people think and feel is very important too.

Here’s some resources to help you:

 

Feeling like an outcast? 

(Fellow vegans at one of the many potluck parties. Source: Animal Allies)

Luckily, the Singapore vegan community is tight knit and active. We have monthly events in the form of potlucks, outreach, screenings, meetings and dining sessions. It can be very daunting to change your lifestyle, but you don’t have to do it alone or all at once.

Meet us here – 

Whatsapp groups – message the numbers to be added:

  1. SG Veg Muslims (9386 6243)
  2. VegPride (LGBTQ vegans – 9731 4600)
  3. Vegan Families (raising vegan kids – 9731 4600)
  4. Vegan SG (vegans – 9731 4600)
  5. PlantForward (for non-vegans interested in trying a vegan lifestyle – 9138 1632)
  6. Team V (plant-based athletes – 9731 4600)
  7. SG Veg Chat Group (veg*ns, warning: lots of messages – 9829 6394)
  8. SGvegan Makan Kakis (for anyone that wants to try out vegan food together with like-minded folks, link to join here.)

Social media groups:

Volunteer & participate in activities, outreach and makan sessions:

  • Animal Allies Singapore – An outreach group that inspires people to make more compassionate, healthy and sustainable choices in Singapore.
  • Vegetarian Society Singapore – Singapore’s oldest non-profit and non-religious charity and organisation promoting a plant-based living.
  • Team V runners – Vegan/vegetarian marathoners and athletes who train regularly together. Interested veg*n (vegetarian/vegan) athletes can contact Team V admin at 97213547 to be added.
  • For all major vegetarian/vegan related upcoming events (updated monthly), visit http://animalallies.sg/events/

(Volunteers from Animal Allies Singapore at PinkDot 2016. Source: Consider Veganism SG.

 

The V Label

Be ready to be introduced to new people by omnivores as “The Vegan”, as if what you eat is the only interesting thing about you. You are as much of a complex individual as everyone else and certainly more than the V label.

Never take negative comments personally. Remember the defense mechanism – it’s not your fault that some people have fragile egos. And don’t be a militant vegan, don’t forget that we weren’t born vegan. You may often feel like “me against the whole world” feeling, but you’re never alone. New veg*ns, welcome to the community! I look forward in meeting you in our foodie gatherings. Thank you for reading my series and I hope they help you in your journey.

cny_2017
Chinese New Year small steamboat gathering, 2017.