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Plant-based Cooking in Japan Part 2: Recipes with ingredients found in your local supermarket

An Artichoke Tomato Quiche made up Part 1 of our series of recipes with Japanese ingredients. Next we will look at a vegetarian cold ramen noodle and a grain-free, gluten-free, vegan burger. Both of these meals are loaded with fresh ingredients and are more than partially raw, so you know you’re getting in many nutrients.

Cold noodles may have originated in China, but the Japanese have put their own spin on the flavours, making it uniquely their own. This is a vegetarian version of the traditional dish.

Ramen, or cold noodles

Ramen cold noodles

This dish is so straight forward it will not need a recipe. All you do is locate the packets of ramen at the store, pick up a jar of “konbu mentsuyu” (which is kelp noodle sauce) and your favourite noodle toppings. In the picture, julienned cucumbers, sliced tomato, sliced firm tofu and grilled and sliced eggplant were used. A good dollop of “karashi” or spicy mustard is the last but essential ingredient for this super easy summer meal.

Mushroom eggplant burgers

Although it will take some time to prepare these burgers due to baking the mushroom bun, it is amazingly flavor-packed. Gluten-free, grain-free, and vegan, it’s one of the healthiest burgers out there. Originally the buns are made using the western portobello mushroom, but a satisfactory substitute for this is the Japanese shiitake mushroom, which sometimes comes in a jumbo size!

Mushroom eggplant burgers

Serves 2, makes 4 burgers
Ingredients:
1 medium eggplant
3/4 Tbs. olive oil
3/4 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. dry Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
8 of the largest shiitake mushrooms you can find (buns)
4 tsp vegan basil pesto (if you can’t find at the store you can make it yourself by grinding together basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and salt)
4 leaves of lettuce, cut in half
1 large tomato, cut into 4 slices

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 200C. Clean and cut the stems off the shiitake mushrooms. Pat dry and rub a little olive oil onto the caps. You can also add some extra seasoning to taste. Bake mushrooms in the oven for 40 min or until cooked completely.
While the mushrooms are baking, cut the eggplant into ½ inch thick rounds, at its widest part. Place the sliced eggplant in a shallow dish. Whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Pour the whisked ingredients over the eggplant rounds, and toss well to coat. Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat. When hot, arrange the eggplant slices on the grill, cooking for 6 min on each side or till the eggplant is cooked.
You are now ready to assemble the burgers. Take one half of the mushroom bun, and stack the grilled eggplant, spreading 1 tsp of pesto. Top it with tomato and lettuce. Place the other half of the burger bun on top. Serve with fries or a chilled cucumber salad tossed with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

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