Since I moved to Japan my friends continue to ask me questions about what it’s like to live here. As it is REALLY far away from my home country, Israel, most of them only know Japan from the internet, TV, rumors, and my stories. Over time, I’ve noticed that some of the questions keep repeating:
Q: “Is it really that clean?”
A: Mostly, yes.
Q: “Have you met a real Geisha?”
A: Yep, a few times.
Q: “Do you eat a lot of ramen?
A: Actually, no!
Q: “Have you learnt to cook any Japanese dishes?”
A: Oh my gosh – NO!
That’s when I realized I had to do something about it. It really doesn’t make any sense to be here for this long without learning how to cook vegan Japanese food. Although there are many cooking classes, most of them are not vegan. I really wanted to take a cooking class and learn about various ingredients in Japanese cuisine. My hope was to acquire some basic principles in order to develop similar dishes by myself. That’s why I was so happy to receive a cooking class at BentoYa! I knew it could be very useful for me, and I was even happier to find out that they hold classes in Kyoto – near the beautiful area of Heian Shrine.
Introducing BentoYa Cooking!
In 2018 BentoYa Cooking started offering classes in Tokyo, Yokohama and Kyoto. The company’s name literally means “lunch-box shop” – and indeed, in one of their classes you can learn how to make a beautifully decorated lunch box – but the vegan version. Apart from the lunch-box class, there are many more classes teaching how to make various vegan Japanese dishes. I was very happy to participate in the class, especially after I learnt that the company donates to Japanese kids in financial difficulty. Not only that, but they also held some charity cooking events where they donated all the profits to an animal shelter in Yokohama. One last thing I really liked about BentoYa is that it’s run only by women! Sorry boys, you know we run the world… 😏
Time To Make Some Vegan Japanese Food
In Kyoto the lesson I participated in was held by the lovely Sakiko, who gave thorough and detailed explanations throughout the whole workshop (in English, of course!). I was one of three participants and we had lots of fun, asked lots of questions, and ate too much 😇
It was a celebration for all the senses: various ingredients, smells, colors, flavors, and textures. Japanese cuisine at its best, with ingredients like miso, kombu and shiitake, combined with Western ingredients like quinoa. When we finished cooking and finally got to taste it – everything was SO delicious! Sakiko taught us how to make gyoza and ramen, changing all the necessary ingredients to vegan, while keeping the distinctive Japanese taste.
Another thing I really appreciated was the amount of useful information we received. For example, Sakiko helped us find substitutes for local Japanese ingredients, ones that can be found in almost any other country. The most memorable ingredient was neri-goma, which could be easily switched for tahini. In that way, all of us can make Japanese vegan food, whenever and wherever we want. Isn’t that great!
Ramen on the making...
Gyoza on the making...
Starting to see the results
Other Things You Should Know
The class was very enjoyable and I really recommend it to anyone that likes Japanese food (vegan or not). If you go to the class, please note, you WILL participate in making the food! It’s not like a school-class where you watch. But don’t worry, you don’t need to rush or write anything. The recipes will be given to you by the end of the session.
If you’re in Kyoto, Yokohama or Tokyo and want to bring home a “souvenir” with true value – bring back knowledge! The great experience and the recipes you’ll learn in BentoYa classes will serve you long after you’re back from your trip.
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