Modern Japanese restaurant (delicious vegan option!) and coffee with some classy desserts

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So, today I joined my mum and her gang of feisty Thai mothers in celebration of the birthday of one of the club members. It was a rather rainy and chilly day in South island (New Zealand), but we had an awesome time chatting and chilling (no pun intended) in a lovely restaurant then cafe.

I was glad both places had vegan options I could enjoy!

(Japanese restaurant SALA-SALA)

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MY VEGAN OPTION: “Veg lover” roll with fried tofu, an assortment of vegetables and complementary miso soup at $12

The sweet fried tofu was refreshing alongside fresh veggies and pickled daikon. The avocado added a yummy, creamy element to the sushi. Before going vegan, I’d thought that the treat of sushi would decline into a boring one but I was wrong! Inari (the sweet tofu sheet that you normally see wrapped around rice pieces) along with ginger pickle and the distinctive seaweed taste all add to the Japanese cuisine experience! You can take the raw fish or chicken etc. out of sushi, but you can’t take out the seaweed and rice!

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My mum’s option ALSO VEGAN: (obviously high-calorie) “Vegetables tempura” or deep-fried battered vegetables $18

I think the assortment of veggies were potato, sweet potato, carrots, green beans…

This menu would be way too high-calorie for me, so I backed out on the option. It’s crazy how people can transform the healthiest, low-calorie foods like veggies into a total oil-dripping meal (from approximately 40 calories to 400+ in the blink of an eye) I’m sure that plate would’ve had more calories than my 8 pieces sushi (I required my mum’s help in finishing the last two-three pieces of sushi).

White rice (especially short grain) contains quite a lot of calories with 242 calories per cup (a little bit more than long grain) so those watching their weight should be aware of the amount of sushi you consume ( a seemingly healthy, low-fat option): 8 pieces would contain about one cup of rice. That’s a lot of carbs (you should only need about half or 0.75 of a cup) so go for 5 or 6 pieces instead and order a spicy seaweed salad for a side. White rice is a simple carbohydrate which causes quick blood-sugar rise, so if you’ve got problems with blood-sugar levels (you would probably  already be well-aware) you’ll need to be a bit careful with simple carbs.

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Thai mother no. 1’s Elaborate Lunch set (I didn’t write the name down) $25

Going clockwise from top left; a small portion of teriyaki chicken, sweet egg rolls ‘Tamagoyaki’ and a little bit of surimi in mayo (or typical ‘seafood medley’ sauce), croquette (according to Thai mother no. 1’s daughter, the croquette had potato and meat in it, but the waiter said it only had rice(?)), and lastly deep-fried fish  in a pretty pink beetroot (I suspect) sauce.

I think using vegetable juice/vegetables to make sauce is one great, healthy way to make condiments. Because you’re getting the sweetness from natural sugars, such as in beetroots and in addition to that also the water-soluble vitamins! Once again, I’m pointing out the obvious; tomato sauce, soysauce, or even mustard (wait that’s a spice) all have vegetables components, duh! But a major base of those condiments nevertheless is added sugar, salt, or corn starch which helps thicken the sauce. Making home-made alternatives would be a great idea to obtain additional nutrients in a delicious way i.e. salsa sauce instead of ketchup. Try to divert yourselves from fatty condiments like mayonnaise, oily pesto, etc.

Look to Indian condiments for tips on making vegetable based sauces (I’m currently addicted to Indian eggplant paste and carrot pickles, although they are quite a bit too salty)

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Thai mother no. 2(Birthday girl)’s sashimi set $21 (comes with the usual rice, miso soup, and salad as well)

An assortment of raw fish sushi and salmon sashimi, pickled daikon, cucumber and smoked salmon sushi. Also, with a side salad of alfalfa sprouts and daikon.

Daikon (or radish) is one great diet foods because of how water-rich yet filling this vegetable root is (similar to konnyaku potatoes used to make zero-cal noodles). I used to blend radish and mix it with good old ketchup to make a less sweet, healthy condiment. it turned out tasting a bit ‘unique’, but did help make my tomato sauce exploits a bit more (health) affordable. Daikon is very mildly flavored and tastes great both raw and cooked (i.e. in Asian soups).

Then the five of us (the Thai mother guild) went off for desserts!

STRAWBERRY FARE cafe and restaurant

It was actually funny because once we got there (around 2 pm) surrounded by diners with their yummy looking lunches we began to wish we’d eaten here. It was a melancholic atmosphere (I’m only exaggerating), but try not to go to another restaurant for desserts (I’m sure lots of people have experienced this regretful feeling).

Tut, tut, humans. We can never have enough of anything (It’s what you’d call our inherent materialistic and consumer insatiability).

MY VEGAN OPTION: Delicious soy latte $5 for large and add 60 cents for soy milk. (NO PICTURE)

I don’t understand how some people can be so nutty over milk when other dairy alternatives like soy, almond, oat or rice are so much more deliciously refreshing, and not loaded with heart-disease inducing saturated fat. I know this has a lot to do with affordability (about $1 more for non-dairy options in most supermarkets), but non-dairy options are so much beneficial to both the environment and your health! (and cruelty-free)

Sure, to avoid the sat fat and calories you can drink skim milk but… without any fat in milk (or soy milk for that matter) your body cannot very easily absorb calcium! There are also research links between heart-diseases in the Western world and dairy/meat consumption http://www.thechinastudy.com/the-china-study/about/.

For my VEGAN OPTION, I could have also ordered the mango sorbet (surprised by a non-animal dessert option) but I was already weighed down enough by the carb-y sushi so I abstained from that option.

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Thai mother no. 2’s banana pudding with mango sorbet, and a side of strawberries and tamarillo slices. This menu can easily undergo a vegan makeover by… banana pudding; egg substitute with 1 tbsp of flax or chia seeds with 1 tbsp of water.

Looking at the colour of the sorbet, they would’ve used a lot of mango in its creation. Apparently it tasted very good.

To be VEGANS: Don’t ever feel you’re missing out on ice-cream! When going out with friends, most ice-cream shops have non-dairy fruit sorbets on offer. Also, fruit ice-cream are so much healthier than their dairy counterparts, and SUPER easy to make at home i.e. banana ice-cream (simply freeze banana slices then blend with a splash of non-dairy milk). I often make kiwi-fruit + green veggies (same method) i.e. green beans/spinach ice-cream at home (will need to share a picture sometime) because it’s sugar-free, healthy, natural and low-calorie!

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Thai mother no. 1’s Tiramisu with mascarpone cheese, soaked lady fingers and chocolate ganache. Her daughter actually begged her to order this, but in the end she didn’t like the dessert because  the cream was apparently too sour.

I haven’t tried making vegan cream substitutes but I’ve heard coconut whipped cream is really easy to make (plus much healthier than double cream).

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My mum’s VEGETARIAN OPTION was a baby lemon cheesecake (the only thing they had with no eggs, aside from the sorbet) without the biscuit base (NO PICTURE) and chai latte.

And that concludes my mum and I’s outing for the day!

(Will take more photos of all the different options next time!)

8 thoughts on “Modern Japanese restaurant (delicious vegan option!) and coffee with some classy desserts”

  1. My husband and I are going out to a Japanese restaurant for dinner tonight. Not being a sushi or fish lover (no fish heads for me!) even before I went vegan, Japanese restaurants aren’t my favorite. Still, I had a craving for tempura today so my husband and I are going out to Japanese food for the second time since we met 7 years ago (I told you I wasn’t crazy about Japanese food – hehe). Have a lovely weekend! Celeste 🙂

    1. That’s true. Japanese restaurants aren’t the most vegetarian friendly place. Most of their meals are very seafood/meat orientated. I assume you meant vegetables tempura. Hopefully they don’t make soggy tempura (deep-frying is a surprisingly hard skill to master). Let me know how your outing went! I’m excited to here your vegan options 🙂
      Have a great dinner!

      1. Haha!! I’m laughing because our Japanese restaurant experience didn’t go well last night. There were only 5 things on the menu we could order: a spinach dish, an eggplant dish, veggie tempura, a mushroom pepper dish and miso soup. We ordered everything except the soup, and when the dishes were brought to us we couldn’t believe how small they were!! We finished everything and felt like we’d only had an appetizer. We thought about ordering something else, but what?? Miso soup and rice?? Instead, we paid the bill and went to Veggie Grill and had a second meal. LOL!!!

        1. So they didn’t have any veggie tempura?? I’m quite surprised! (If they have shrimp tempura, they should have veggie too!) Such a shame! But 5 vegetable dishes is pretty impressive for a Japanese restaurant! Most Japanese restaurants just have steamed edamame, deep-fried croquette and a vegetarian sushi for non meat eaters. I guess you could ask for a yakisoba (noodles stir-fry with no egg) with no meat. I agree that Japanese restaurants do serve very small portions, leaving you penniless but unsatisfied. Miso soup and rice would be pretty healthy options though! 😉 Veggie Grill sounds both intriguing and delicious!!

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