Vegan Japanese cuisine without “sad versions”

Beyond fish or ‘wagyu’, Japanese cuisine keeps a vegan recipe book that refers to a time when meat and dairy were little used, as stated in the book "Vegan Japaneasy"aimed at those who want to enjoy Japanese umami without animal protein.

Published by Libros Cúpula, it is signed by the American chef Tim Andersom, who became "occasionally vegan" for his work opening Nanban restaurant (London) in 2015: "For many months I was working there between 60 and 100 hours every week, so I hardly cooked at home, so I had to change my way of shopping because fresh food expired before I could cook it".

Andersom narrates that he changed meat and fish for more durable products such as tubers, frozen or canned vegetables, and pasta; Almost without realizing it, this cook born in Wisconsin -considered "America’s Dairy Land"- through whose veins the ‘fondue’ ran, and raised on sausages and vanilla ice cream, eliminated animal protein from its usual menu.

He acknowledges that this transition was influenced by his stay in Japan, a country where he lived to study his cuisine and where he had a vegetarian partner with whom it was difficult for him to share a restaurant among the offer of places specialized in sushi, chicken or ramen with pork broth. That impediment led him to discover the condiments of the island.

The bitterness of the miso, the saltiness of the dried shiitake mushrooms or the acidity of the ponzu became his allies to enhance the flavor of dishes without missing the fish or meat, knowledge that he captures in a book that demonstrates that Japanese cuisine homemade "does not require much preparation or complicated techniques" and it’s so easy "a monkey -vegan- could do it"it states.

The main objective is to ensure that a dish overflows ‘umami’ -considered the fifth basic flavor and whose best translation into Spanish is ‘tasty’- what can be achieved based on meat and fish, but also seaweed and mushrooms, defends Andersom.

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In fact, the author undertakes a crusade in favor of one of those responsible for this fifth taste, the demonized glutamate, "present in tomato, peas, nuts, algae, green tea, or breast milk", in condiments such as soy sauce and in beverages such as wine, and whose industrialized side, he assures, does not cause migraines or other effects of what he qualifies as "slightly racist" Chinese restaurant syndrome, which reportedly includes sweating and flushed skin.

In favor of your prescription it is postulated that we are in "the golden age of shopping"when it is easy to find foreign ingredients in any city, "before climate change causes a crash in crops and the collapse of international trade in about 15 years".

Among its basics, both for Japanese cuisine or to give a different touch to the regional cuisine of each country, are soy sauce, sake (rice wine), mirin (sweet rice wine), rice vinegar, miso (fermented soybean paste ), dashi (basic broth), tofu, mushrooms, seaweed, pickles, noodles, roasted sesame, sesame oil, panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), tonkatsu sauce, or shichimi togarasahi spice mix.

In "Vegan Japaneasy"Andersom recalls that some of his recipes can emulate the cuisine of Buddhist temples (shojin ryori) that seek spiritual well-being, although they have not been designed for that purpose, such as kale with sesame or pumpkin stewed in dashi with mirin and ginger, examples of this austere cuisine.

They are added -executed without any animal suffering except for the ‘finger grating’ of its author, he points out with humor- recipes such as the night of revelry rice, fried eggplants with spicy miso, curry corn croquettes, miso stew and kimchi, onion ramen, or biscuit with soy sauce.


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