Vegetarian and vegan food is slowly gaining popularity in Japan, with major chains like CoCo Curry and Yoshinoya offering up meat-free dishes to its customers. Even Mos Burger have their own vegan burger on the menu. These days, you can enjoy many meals meat-free if you know where to look, but there’s one dish that has yet to made vegan-friendly; a meal so popular that you can even bathe in it. A meal so popular, some people have even imposed their own rules on how to eat it correctly. We’re talking, of course, about yakiniku. A stalwart favorite amongst many, it’s usually known for being cheap and cheerful, but always delicious.
But for vegetarians and vegans, going out for yakiniku is not usually an option. I mean, "yakiniku" in Japanese literally means "grilled meat" – surely it’d be impossible to make yakiniku meat-free?
So you’d think. But “conceptual food tech” start-up company Next Meats has come up with the world’s first plant-based yakiniku meat, with harami (skirt steak) and karubi (short rib) cuts. They believe that plant-based meat will become the new normal in the future as they claim it’s more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
The company has been working closely with a factory that’s been producing vegan products for over 30 years to create the Harami 1.0 and the Karubi 1.0. Both products are designed to look like regular meat and are made from soybeans without any additives, so if you’re looking to get into the meat-free lifestyle, this could be a good stepping stone. In fact, the products both contain half the fat of regular yakiniku meat and double the protein, so you won’t be missing out on anything, nutritionally speaking.
It’s currently available to pre-order online, costing 1,950 yen (US$18.50) for five cuts at 80 grams (2.8 ounces) each. Vegans will surely be pleased with the increasing products available for them, considering that, as a whole, Japan tends to be quite ambivalent towards veganism. But with products like the Next Meats line and vegan festivals becoming more and more popular, maybe that’s set to change in the future.
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