I lasted about two weeks in Japan as a vegetarian. Then I swiftly abandoned half a lifetime of vegetarianism in favour of late-night ramen and fish for breakfast.
That's not to say being vegetarian - or vegan - in Japan is impossible. It just wasn't for me.
But did you know that lots of wagashi
(Japanese sweets) are naturally vegan?
I hadn't really thought about it, until I saw that Cafe an-an in Portslade was running an Afternoon Tea event for World Vegan Day on 1st November.
Here are some pictures of the tasty food I managed to take - before I ate it all.
I got there super early, partly because I got the bus, and partly because I was trying to run on "Japan time", i.e., if you're not early, you're late.
Cafe an-an is run by the lovely Noriko-san, who you can see selling Japanese sweets at lots of events around Brighton.
I meant to get a picture with Noriko too, but she was very busy cooking! Next time...
Anyway, we arrived and were presented with this cute handwritten menu.
Today's reading practice for you!↓
We started the Afternoon Tea with a little soy milk and pumpkin soup.
Then chestnut rice, nasu dengaku
(glazed aubergine), and ganmodoki
(tofu fritters) with lotus root.
You can see from the picture how small the aubergine is. It's a proper tiny Japanese one - sweet and delicious.
I haven't had aubergine that good in a long time...
Next, the sweet bit!
Tsukimi dango ("moon-viewing dumplings"), and steamed chestnut yōkan (a jellied sweet made with agar) - that's the purple triangle.
And pumpkin kintsuba - that's the orange slice that looks a bit like a piece of brie.
Kintsuba is another type of Japanese sweet, popular with people who like their sweets a bit less sweet.
The last little course was i-no-ko mochi
("baby boar rice cake"). Tasty, and of course it doesn't contain any boar...baby or otherwise.
And an awesome little maple leaf shaped sweet. Isn't it pretty?
Finally, my little rabbit manjuu (steamed bun) filled with anko (red bean paste).
He was almost too cute to eat, but I ate him head first.
I felt pretty sorry for the cute bunny. But at least he's vegan! Unlike me...
You can find out more about Cafe an-an on their website
Or pop in and chat some Japanese with Noriko-san while you buy your sweets. She's always very welcoming :)