Let me start off by being honest with you all: being vegan in Tokyo was not the easiest. I mean, sure the Japanese diet traditionally incorporates rice as a base with veggies. I did some research before about what to eat, what to ask for, etc. but I was definitely still ill-prepared for how difficult it would be. Almost everything, and I mean everything, has some sort of fish oil in it. Luckily enough, there was a light of hope shining in the form of Tabell, a brand new plant-based macrobiotic food truck.
After studying macrobiotics and working in catering, Miyashiro Asami started Tabell as a way of introducing a new, healthy food lifestyle to the people of Tokyo. A macrobiotic meal typically includes 40-60% grains, 20-30% vegetables, and 5-10% beans and sea vegetables. There’s no meat, animal fat, eggs, poultry, dairy products, refined sugars, fruit juices, soda, coffee, all artificial or chemically treated foods, or alcohol. Just my type of eating!
We happened upon Tabell by happy accident. My boyfriend and I were walking from the Imperial Palace to the Ginza shopping district when I saw a small parking lot with food trucks. Immediately, I zoned in on Tabell thanks to their big sign out front reading “plate full of vegetables”. Upon further investigation, I found a sign in English reading “no meat, no dairy, no eggs, no fish”. I was so happy I literally started jumping up and down.
Even though the menu was in Japanese, I asked the girl in the truck if it was vegan and she immediately responded that it was. I told her what tough of a time I was having and she completely understood. It was so refreshing not to have to explain myself or try to communicate what it meant to be vegan. She just got it right away. She offered me their full lunch plate which included: brown rice sprinkled with sesame, sauteed spinach with tofu, and sweet potato with crush almonds.
Normally, the lunch plate comes with soy meat as well. However, since I’m not a big fake meat type of person, I just asked for extra sweet potato instead and the girl was more than happy to give it to me for free! I think what really got me about Tabell was not only the kindness of the girl working there, but their awareness of the plant-based lifestyle as well.
Most of the countries I’ve traveled to, including Bali, Vietnam, Phillippines, Cambodia, England, and United States of course, have been way more accommodating to vegans. Even here in Hong Kong, it’s gotten more and more popular and there’s at least a couple of restaurants with completely vegan, gluten-free wholesome meal options. I’m lucky that I haven’t struggled much to find food as a vegan ever, until my trip to Tokyo that is.
To be honest, it was the idea of cross-contamination that really worried me in Tokyo. Since most places were not vegan, they’d provide the food but would cook it in the same pots/areas as their other food. I’m not one to be paranoid, but it’s just a matter of principle to me. My go-to meal of choice ended up being white rice or brown rice.
Yep, just plain steamed rice ended up being the safest bet. I’m a rice lover so I really had no problem. I ate my weight in rice, plus I’d brought a bunch of rawnola and rice cakes with me from home to have as snacks throughout the day. We ended up going to a nice meal on our final night, where the chef kindly prepared a bowl full of steamed veggies for me.
Served on top of a bed of rice, it was a bowl full of portabello mushrooms, broccoli, cabbage, and sweet potato. For the record, Japanese sweet potato is actually amazing! It’s so delicious and I liked it so much I started buying it here in Hong Kong. They’re a bit starchier than American sweet potatoes and are purple in color, but I find the taste so yummy.
It was too dark inside to take photos at the last restaurant, so I apologize for that. I guess you’ll just have to trust me when I say it was really good! In addition to all the rice and veggies I was eating, I drank a lot of cold-pressed juice as well. It took me by complete surprise to find not one, but two cold-pressed juice shops right around the corner from our hotel in Roppongi Hills.
My favorite was Sunshine Juice which offered the best flavors of juices and homemade nut milk as well. I got the “bloody beets” with beets, apples, carrots, lemon, kale, Chinese cabbage, spinach, celery; “ironman’s favorite” with beets, seasonal citrus, maca, and “the roots” with carrot, ginger, apple. Their almond milk was made from simply that: raw pressed almonds. I carried these juices around with me everywhere and went back for seconds and thirds. I’m so lucky to be able to travel to places like Tokyo. Even though it was an adventure finding food there, at least I am having adventures!