Vegan Nagano Specialties (Nagano, Japan)

Part 3 of my series on regional Japanese specialties that are vegan-friendly!  Japan loves it’s food, and each region has it’s own specialties that garner a  lot of a attention from out-of-town visitors.  Here are some items from Nagano Prefecture that you can also enjoy!

A. Snacks

1. Oyaki Dumplings

Oyaki is probably my favorite Japanese snack food, and I cannot possibly rave about it enough.  While it is possible to buy it in other parts of Japan, Oyaki is originally from Nagano prefecture, and in Matsumoto City, at least, it was EVERYWHERE.  Train stations, convenience stores, restaurants, souvenir shops – everywhere you looked there was oyaki.

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Oyaki is essentially a (usually soba) flour bun filled with… anything.   While I was in Nagano I saw oyaki filled with various sweets foods such as fruits and anko (sweet red bean paste).  However, most oyaki seems to be filled with miso or soy sauce and vegetables of various kinds.  They come in dozens and dozens of flavors.

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Some do contain meat or fish, but I was surprised to find that often oyaki are entirely vegan. Make sure to check for things like fish sauce or shrimp paste (including in the miso used), but I ate at 2 different oyaki places and found both times (by close inspection of ingredients lists) that the vast majority were entirely vegan.  What a great surprise!

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2.  Gohei Mochi

Sadly, I didn’t get to try Gohei Mochi while I was in Nagano, as it appears to be a Southern Nagano specialty (I visited up North).  Gohei Mochi is a grilled mochi (rice flour) cake with a miso, mirin, and sugar paste.  So long as the miso is vegan (some miso’s contain fish sauce, so please ask!), most Gohei Mochi should be vegan!  I’m visiting Gifu Prefecture soon, so I’m hoping I will get to try Gohei Mochi while there!

3. Apple Products

Nagano is also particularly famous for it’s fruit, especially apples.  Apple products are sold in every souvenir shop, and often times there are lots of options for vegans!  Of course you can just get fresh apples, but you can also get apple juice, jams, and apple-jelly filled mochi!

Apple Mochi (box)

Apple Mochi (box)

Apple Mochi (inside)

Apple Mochi (inside)

Apple Jam

Apple Jam

B.  Meals

1. Soba Noodles

Nagano is also famous for it’s soba.  There are soba houses everywhere, and while the mentsuyu sauce that soba is served with often contains fish sauce, the soba itself is quite vegan.  So, if you really want to try soba while in Nagano, simply ask for a side of soy sauce (or sneak in your own vegan mentsuyu).  Soy sauce alone isn’t quite the same, of course, and you might get some odd looks, but it might be worth it to try a local specialty.

Soba (from Lohas Cafe, Sapporo, Hokkaido)

Soba (from Lohas Cafe, Sapporo, Hokkaido)

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