Plant-based food boom lends new glamor to Japanese menu staple

ANN/THE JAPAN NEWS – Soybeans have been a menu staple for years, but new pulse-based foods have started appearing in stores and restaurants.

“A lot of new soy products are low in sugar and fat, so I can eat them without feeling guilty,” said a 31-year-old company employee from Miyagi Prefecture. “Since a variety of soy foods are now available in my local supermarket, I like to try them.”

Soy consumption has increased in recent years. According to data compiled by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, daily consumption of soy per person was 19 grams in fiscal year 2020, up two from 2015.

In March 2020, Kobe-based leading food manufacturer Fujicco Co launched “Marugoto Daizu no Yoguruto”, a new soy-based yogurt. The product has low acidity but the sweetness of soybeans.

“Although it is low in calcium compared to standard yogurts, it is popular because it is high in fiber, soy isoflavones and other nutrients found in soybeans,” said Kazumi Shikita, head of the society.

SOi Space’s Yoshiko Kojima serves the cafe’s cheesecake and soy drink in Yokohama; and a few soy products on display. PHOTOS: NEWS FROM JAPAN

Fujicco has also developed the Beanus Soya Rice series of products as a rice substitute.

Some of the flavors available online include gapao rice and fried rice with spicy pickled takana leaves, which are frozen, in addition to regular dried soybean rice.

In November 2021, Imperfect Omotesando, a cafe and grocery store in Tokyo’s Omotesando district, began selling mayonnaise that replaces eggs with soy milk and two types of salad dressings made with soy mayonnaise.

The cafe started thinking about creating soy products after it started getting inquiries about plant-based products around 2020.

By incorporating spices and other ingredients, he developed his own mayonnaise, which tastes very similar to standard mayonnaise.

Imperfect Omotesando also serves a vegan hot dog, which is made with soy meat, soy milk mayonnaise, and soy milk dressing. “We have received positive feedback on the mayonnaise and it is a big hit,” said Misako Saeki, Marketing Manager of Imperfect Omotesando.

“We would like to continue to develop more soy products.”

In December, SOi Space soy milk cafe opened in Yokohama’s Minatomirai district in December.

Among the most popular items on the shop’s menu are cheesecake made with soy milk and okara soy pulp, and soy milk drinks made with kokuto brown sugar and black tea.

The soy milk is produced at a nearby factory from soybeans grown in Japan.

“Japan’s soybean self-sufficiency rate continues to be in the single digits,” said Yoshiko Kojima, head of SOi Space. “By introducing customers to the superior taste of locally produced soybeans, we hope to help create an environment where soybean production will increase.

A nutritionist familiar with soybeans, Hitomi Fujihashi, said, “Soybeans are low in sugar and high in protein, which is well suited for today’s health-conscious society.

“They are also attracting attention due to the growing interest in environmentally friendly plant-based foods.

“Soybeans can be used in many different ways and can be found in a variety of products, both Japanese and Western.”

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