A Vegetarian Menu; A Sushi Dinner | Japan | Living in Mexico

A Vegetarian Menu; A Sushi Dinner

I don't remember where I picked this up this menu, but it looked fascinating to me. Unfortunately, we didn't get to try it.


This menu doesn't look particularly appetizing, but we ate many vegetarian dishes during our visit and all were delicious. All except the inescapable wheat gluten that is.

Not everyone will know what "lees" is, as in "Okara age: Fried bean curd lees." Lees is the sediment from fermentation. Waste not, want not.

Note also that the majority of the dishes involve soy in some way. You'd think eating all that soy would become tedious, but I found each preparation to be unique. You wouldn't know that all these dishes derived from the same homely vegetable from the tastes, textures or colors.


For dinner, our tour leaders took us to Hirakawa Sushi, for a sushi demonstration, which we found fairly pedestrian, since we have been sushi aficionados for many years, and this outing was designed as an introduction for the inexperienced. Before departing for dinner, our group divided in two; those who wanted to eat (or try) sushi, and those who didn't.

The chefs at Hirakawa Sushi made us a sampling of non-threatening sushi: Maguro, Hamachi, Sake and the like. Most of our fellow travelers were not able to bring themselves to try everything, but many did well for their first try.

The dinner was marred by a presentation by John Gauntner, a sake expert. John did present a lot of interesting and new information about sake, but his rapid-fire, shouted delivery intruded on and distracted me from my enjoyment of the meal. In the interest of disclosure of editorial bias, I don't drink alcoholic beverages, and so my interest in sake is undoubtedly less than that of my traveling companions, but several of them confided that they would have preferred to enjoy their dinners in peace, and heard John's presentation separately.

I learned two things about sushi that I didn't know.

1) At least in the better restaurants, the grated daikon (giant radish) commonly served as a garnish or an ingredient in some dishes is not in fact grated, but is instead cut in long, extremely thin shreds by hand with a thin, sharp knife. Our chef cut the long side of an 8" long cylinder of radish into a strip several feet long, carefully rotating the radish under the blade of the knife. From that strip, he would later cut hundreds of thin shreds.

2) The reconstituted dried wasabi ubiquitous in U. S. sushi bars isn't served in better restaurants in Japan. The fresh grated roots that we were served at Hirakawa Sushi were much more pungent with a complex, deep flavor. Our tour leaders, along with food expert Elizabeth Andoh, told us that fresh wasabi was unavailable in the U. S. because the roots won't keep during shipping and they cannot be grown in any American climate. I found this hard to believe, and since found that fresh wasabi is available, although probably scarce because of low demand. I see that one place that the roots are grown is in Oregon, which has a climate similar to Japan's.