How to Eat Vegan At An Izakaya
Izakaya, or Japanese-style pubs, are abundant throughout Japan. With their large menus and cheap drinks, they are an easy solution if you’re looking to have a fun time with a group of friends.
Luckily, even if you are vegan you should have no problem eating at an izakaya.
Below are the vegan-friendly options you can find at most izakaya throughout Japan.
Vegan-Friendly Izakaya Food
An izakaya is not an izakaya unless it has some version of french fries on the menu.
Some come in the classic string shape, others as wedges. No matter the type, they are a great option and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. You will not have to be that weird vegan eating raw veggie sticks in the corner!
Hiyayakko (without bonito flakes)
Hiyayakko, or fresh tofu, is a delicious and nutritious option. Just make sure to ask for no katsuo bushi (bonito flakes), as these will inevitably come with the tofu unless you specify otherwise.
Just say, “katsuo bushi nashi de.” Just drizzle of soy sauce on top and voila, you have a tasty side dish.
Another izakaya staple, edamame are a simple, filling option. It’s not always easy to find reliable vegan protein sources at Japanese restaurants, so it’s great that you can order both fresh tofu and edamame to keep you full while you imbibe on alcoholic beverages.
Tempura, a popular dish throughout the world, is also commonly sold at izakaya. You can usually find both seafood and veggie tempura, but vegan options include mushrooms, eggplant, lotus root, asparagus, sweet potato, or shishito peppers.
Similar to tempura is kushiage, which is skewered deep-fried veggies and meat. The main difference between the two is the batter. Tempura batter uses flour and water, while kushiage batter uses flour, water, breadcrumbs, and eggs.
So, it’s best to stay away from kushiage and instead opt for tempura if you can.
Salted cabbage salad
A classic healthy salad that you can find at many izakaya, salted cabbage may sound like a sad excuse for a dish but it is actually very delicious. It’s usually made with salt, pepper, sesame seeds, and a bit of oil.
The cabbage is crunchy and fresh, and the seasoning is what really separates this dish from a simple pile of cabbage. You’ll find yourself refilling your bowl again and again!
Pickles in Japan are not the same as pickles in the States or in other western countries– they are not as vinegary or sour and have a more subtle, slightly sweet flavor.
Typical pickles found at izakaya include cucumber and radish. They are great as a side dish for rice or noodles, but can even be enjoyed on their own.
Want to get other tips on surviving as a a vegan in Japan? Check out our vegan survival guide.