Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Tokyo Vege Food Festa 2011

Due to some stormy weather on the morning of Saturday the 15th, day one of this year's festival was cancelled.  Lucky for vendors and festival goers alike, Sunday was a lovely day- it was even a bit hot!  Lots of people came out and I was happy to see the vendors making pretty good sales. Many of the stands even had quite long lines.  How great was it to see people lining up for vegan food in Tokyo?!

I purposely ate a light breakfast that morning, and A-chan and I hopped off the train early, so we got a good 30 minute walk on the way to the park.  I wanted to make sure I'd have a good appetite for sampling the festival's offerings.

We hit up the ingredients/ cook at home section first, did a lot of browsing, and picked up a jar of my favourite organic peanut butter and a Viana "Picknicker" veggie pepperoni stick.  I was also tempted to buy some agave syrup, as I see it pop up so often in tasty looking vegan recipes.

After heading over to the read-to-eat area,  I couldn't resist trying a nikuman from the Loving Hut stand.  I've noticed this item on the menu in the restaurant, but I think they don't actually offer it anymore.  No surprise, it was delicious, with a soft, doughy exterior and chewy little chunks of salty-sweet mock meat inside.  I'm always curious to hear how mock meat dishes compare to the original, and my omni co-tester said our nikuman was a convincing fake.

 We did some browsing to see what other goodies were on offer.  This stand had an interesting concept.  Apparently aiming to cash in on 萌え (moe) appeal, these girls dressed as cheerleader/ furry animals would shake your karaage with spices while saying "furi-furi" (shake-shake) and flashing sugary smiles.  It's not really my thing but I can see it working in Akihabara!

A-chan tried some harumaki (spring roles) from Chein-Fu's stand.  This amazing Taiwanese vegetarian food company used to have a restaurant in Osu, Nagoya and one in Tachikawa, Tokyo.  As far as I know both closed down.  Did they open up new locations?!?  I really wanted to ask the people working at the booth, but they were pretty busy serving customers.  I'll have to research this, as the Chien-Fu restaurants served up some of my favourite veggie meals I've enjoyed in Japan.

My next order was a bowl of colourful taco rice from Blue Cafe, which featured a pickled beet and onion topping.  I'd never heard of this restaurant before, but according to the flyer they gave me, this place is an Okinawan and Mexican food joint in Fujisawa, Kanagawa.  As far as I know, the restaurant isn't actually vegetarian (though I imagine they offer some veg-friendly dishes), but it looks pretty cool and laid back.

Alas, by the time I saw this Indian place grilling up (what looked like) veggie versions of tandoori kebabs, I was already pretty full. 

I also wanted to try these tasty looking veggie burgers from Ain Soph.  Lucky for me, I bumped into a friend who was about to bite into one, and was kind enough to offer me a taste.  Don't you love friends who share food?  It was a pleasant bite, and I've put Ain Soph on my list of restaurants to try. 

 All in all, I was satisfied by my experience at the Vege Food Festa.  It was great to see lots of public interest in vegan food, many happy faces of people chowing down on their meals, and also to pique my own interest in some new restaurants.  For those of you who made it to the festival, I'd love to hear what you thought of it!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

What does a vegetarian eat at Oktoberfest?

I've never met a pickled vegetable I didn't like.  Getting friendly with my sauerkraut, was a chewy pretzel, and of course a mug of beer.  It's not usually my alcohol of choice, but it was fun to try a few new kinds at this year's Yokohama Oktoberfest.

Monday, 10 October 2011

hisashiburi veggie dog

Sunday morning we rolled out of bed and over to Spiral Aoyama to catch the film Romeos, presented by  the Tokyo International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.  We really enjoyed it, and it was great to see such a crowd come out on a Sunday morning to support queer film.  After the show was over, A-chan had a craving for soymilk ramen, so we hopped on the subway and made our way to Yotsuya-sanchome to pay a visit to Loving Hut.  

If you've been following my blog for a while and have read my original Loving Hut review you'll know I'm a big fan of this place.  While I was tempted to order up a bowl of soymilk ramen myself, I opted for the veggie dog plate, as it was one of the only Loving Hut meals I haven't tried.  While I don't really think of veggie dogs as restaurant food, they're not something you can buy in a grocery store in Japan.  In fact, I think this was the first veggie dog I've eaten since I moved to Japan three years ago.  Crazy!  While they're certainly not my favourite vegetarian meal, a veggie dog is such a tasty, simple comfort food that it's hard to believe I went so long without eating one.  The Loving Hut version was satisfying enough, but I have to say the star of that plate was one of the tiny side dishes.  This morsel of sweet and sour mock meat packed a punch!  I hope to see it appearing as a main dish someday soon.  

I mentioned that the veggie dog was one of my few remaining yet to be sampled Loving Hut dishes.  Lucky for me, my friend ordered the only other meal I hadn't tried, which was the curry plate.  Given that Indian food is an often used safe bet for me when dining with omnivore companions, I hardly ever order curry when I make it to a vegetarian restaurant.  So I was quite pleased when my friend opted for the curry plate and put up no resistance when I demanded a spoonful for my "research".  It was a nicely spiced, but not too spicy curry, peppered with chewy, ground meat-like TVP.  

We finished off our meal by sharing a piece of vegan cheesecake, topped with blueberry sauce, between the four of us. Very impressive!  I've tried a number of vegan cheesecakes in my time, and generally they are tasty enough as long as one doesn't try to compare them to an actual cheesecake.  (Which is probably easier for long time vegans!)  Loving Hut's vegan cheesecake was truly delicious and didn't have that tofu taste that vegan versions sometimes do.  This guy has won a place on my Loving Hut recommendation list!

 Now that I've tried all the main dishes, I can confidently recommend the veggie burger plate, soymilk ramen, and cheesecake as my top Loving Hut picks.  What are your favourites?

*Language note: hisashiburi, which appeared in the title of this post, means "it's been a long time" or "long time no see!"

Monday, 3 October 2011

a veggie feast at the Namaste India festival

The weekend before last was a delicious one for Tokyo vegetarians.  Yoyogi Park's event area was taken over by India, and that meant a congregation of cheap and tasty meat-free meal options.  I headed over on Sunday, and before I had reached the park I'd already decided on my first course.  Friends that had gone Saturday recommended I try a South Indian meal, including a light and crispy crepe-like bread called dosa. 

According to a quick Wiki search, dosa batter is made from ground rice and lentils.  For masala dosa, they pour the batter on a griddle, spread it out, and when it's nearly cooked, a mix of potatoes, onions and spices is added.  If we can trust Wikipedia, there's an interesting story that goes along with why the mix is placed inside the wrap.  Apparently a potato and spice mix used to be served along side the dosa, but during a potato shortage, vendors started mixing in onions to compensate.  As orthodox Hindus and Jains aren't supposed to eat onions, vendors placed the mix inside the wrap to conceal the onions.  Sneaky!  

While I was enjoying my masala dosa, I noticed a lot of people around me eating little crispy egg shaped morsels. I watched a mum crack open a little hole in the top of the ball, spoon something inside, pour sauce over it, and feed the whole thing to her kid.  I decided I needed to try some for myself!

The morsel in question turned out to be a sev puri, a popular Indian snack sold by street vendors.  What a mix of flavors!  Due to the sauces drizzled on top, these guys were sweet, salty and sour.  Add that to a crunchy deep fried bread ball.  Wow!

We had to take a break from eating with a bit, so we browsed the shopping area, and tried a few glasses of 300¥ a pop Indian wine.  Not bad!  When we were ready for another nibble, we opted to try aloo tikki.  This yummy little potato cutlet disappeared quickly between the four of us, so we had to go back for a second order.

Above are two of my companions for the day.  We had such a lovely time!  It was nice to have the chance to try a few new Indian dishes.  I go for Indian food pretty often, but always order curry and nan.  Now that I know what these newly discovered dishes are, I'll happily order them if I see them on a menu.

With the Namaste India Festival behind us, the next Yoyogi Park event I'll be attending is the Tokyo Vege Food Festa on the 15th and 16th.  While the reviews I've heard of previous festivals have been mixed, I'm really looking forward to this one.  I hope to see lots of you out there!    
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