Apple Spice Pancakes {VIDEO}

Apple Spice Pancakes (Vegan + Whole Grain with Spelt & Teff Flour)

I arrived back in the U.S. last Thursday (or according to my jet lagged body, Friday), with a craving for pancakes and not much else. Since leaving New York City at the end of January I hadn’t eaten my favorite vegan breakfast once. In LA, Kristin and I found our daily morning nourishment in creatively curated toast with avocado. In Japan, making pancakes didn’t make sense in my teeny kitchen without a big skillet, mixing bowls, or affordable American ingredients. And since nothing comforts me as tremendously as a hot and fluffy stack of pancakes, my weary traveling soul craved them deeply as soon as my feet touched American ground.

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Vegan Food in Japan {Tokyo & Kyoto}

IMG_6966Before I left to go to Japan at least 10 people warned me that it would be difficult to find vegan food; even that I might be really hungry the whole trip. Though I was aware of the liberal use of fish products in Japanese cuisine, I had no idea that I might encounter a frightening shortage of vegan food. I had my ticket, and I was going to the #1 country on my list of countries-to-visit, but I started feeling anxious about the decision to embark on a journey in a place that was supposedly vegan unfriendly. I imagined myself sadly walking past restaurants packed with laughing full-bellied patrons. I envisioned myself alone at the grocery store picking up Japanese sweet potatoes, and brown rice, that I would have to make in the tiny quarters of my Airbnb apartments––lost in translation, alone, hungry, and sad.

Then I went to the world wide web and typed in HappyCow.net

Happy Cow is a website I’ve used many times to find vegan eats around the world. It’s like the veggie Yelp. It’s user driven, and there are photos, reviews, directions, hours of operation, and notes like “there is no English menu here”. It’s a truly invaluable resource (I have the app on my phone) for vegans who like to travel.

When I searched Tokyo and Kyoto on the Happy Cow website I was surprised to find so many strictly vegan restaurants. Being that Japan is a Buddhist country, I knew the naysayers had to be wrong. There had to be some compassionate souls––beyond the monks––on the island. I guess the non-vegans don’t know about Happy Cow, and thus don’t know about the many vegan restaurants in their midst. And perhaps their starving vegan friends weren’t yet hip to this great site/app. I shed a tear for them.

What I found using the Happy Cow app, plus searches on TripAdvisor, were a number of delicious vegan restaurants catering to many different tastes. There was the shojin ryori ­inspired take out spot in Akihabara, and the world fusion place in Ikebukuro. Though I didn’t make it there, there were noodles in Tokyo station (T’s Tan Tan), and lots of opportunities to find bliss in the many kinds of mochi.

I admit, Japanese cuisine does contain a lot to fish products. On my first day there I accidentally ate a kelp jelly that contained bonito and scallop extract…whatever that is. I also had some pickles in Kyoto at Nishiki market that probably contained bonito, and not knowing the language makes it hard to double check the ingredients. However, I didn’t starve in Japan. On the contrary, I ate very well. I even have a suitcase full of goodies to show for it. Japanese food has always been a favorite of mine, and now I love it even more.

So! Let’s talk about where you, my fellow vegan eater, can find delicious nourishment in Tokyo and Kyoto. I can’t wait to share these yummy bites with you!

TOKYO EATS

Ain Soph Soar

Ain Soph Soar Ikebukuro Tokyo Located in Ikebukuro, a whole city unto itself, Ain Soph Soar is an oasis within the madness of the area. It’s clean, charming, and romantic, and just steps away from Ikebukuro’s 7-story arcades, bars, and shopping. I came for dinner and ordered the tomato soup, hambāgu with rich miso sauce, and chocolate cake with ice cream for dessert. I also had a couple of glasses of rose (just a few hundred yen a glass). The food was tasty, though not Japanese style, which I happened to be craving that night. Still it was filling and warmed me to the core. Though not very sweet, I could have eaten 5 of those chocolate cakes!

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Adventures in Kyoto

Bamboo Forest Arashiyama Kyoto Japan

Kyoto has treated me well. Tomorrow I’m saying farewell to this glorious city, and bullet train-ing myself back up to Tokyo for a couple last days in Japan. I’m definitely going to miss it here.

While Tokyo is enormous and overwhelming, Kyoto is walkable and inviting. As soon as I stepped out of the train station and made my way along the narrow streets to my temporary apartment, I knew I would love this place. There’s a Japanese old world charm here that blends almost seamlessly with our modern fast culture. I find the juxtaposition of iPhones, kimonos, Starbucks, and ancient shrines exciting and humbling at the same time. Wherever you go traditional Japanese and buddhist culture are there. I’m mesmerized by the magical alleys only wide enough for 2 people to fit through, and the shrines occupying space between apartment buildings. Perhaps I’m most excited by the abundance of mochi (a heavenly rice cake that’s been around for over 1 thousand years) sold on every street.

Mugwort Mochi Kyoto Japan

In my week spent in Kyoto my favorite part has been my two trips to Arashiyama––which you’ll see in the video below!

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Perfect Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Best Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Kon’nichiwa from Japan!! Yes, Japan! The land of the starchy and sweet Japanese yam :)

How did I end up here? It all happened so very quickly. One day I was planning on spending the winter in New Orleans, and the next thing I know I’m on an airplane flying to the other side of the world. It has been my dream to visit this country ever since I stepped foot in the Tokyo Narita airport on a layover to Thailand over 3 years ago. Though I’ve dreamed of spending time here, I know so little about it. I guess that’s why when my New Orleans plans didn’t work out, I quickly shifted my focus to visiting my #1 spot, Japan, and making my dream come true!

Vegan in Japan

 

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LA + Chocolate Cherry Thumbprint Cookies

Vegan Chocolate Cherry Valentines Thumbprint Cookies

I just arrived in Japan! I’ll spend half my time in Tokyo, and the other have in Kyoto. I’ve got 2 weeks to explore as much as I can. Please give me advice!

Of course, I’m most looking forward to the food. The seaweed, the ramen, the Japanese yams, and tofu. Japanese food has long been a favorite of mine, and though eating out at non-vegan restaurants can be tricky for a vegan, I’m super excited to cook for myself, and enjoy the vegan restaurants here. Of course I’ll be taking you guys along for the ride! Make sure you’re following me on Instagram @sweetpotatosoul and subscribed to my YouTube channel!!

But before we dive into this Japanese adventure I want to tell you about my other recent trip, and share a delicious and easy Valentine’s Day recipe with you!!

If you’ve been following me on social media you’ll know I just spent 2 weeks in Los Angeles. Trading NYC winter for LA sunshine was a stellar idea! I’m pretty sure I can’t stand another winter in the polar vortex. Eight years in the northeast is more than enough. I won’t move away permanently––NYC summers are divine––but I’m going to make my bi-coastal dream come true :)

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