Vegan food was a rarity in Japan a decade ago, but veggie-based restaurants and snacks have started popping up in recent years, and now you can find ramen shops, izakaya and even whole food festivals dedicated to a plant-based diet. 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. Mock meat company Next Meats his continuing the trend, releasing the country’s first ever yakiniku-style vegan meats in two different variations: harami (skirt steak) and kalbi (beef short rib steak).
Next Meats launched its first product, the plant-based burger patties Next Burger, in June 2020 after a successful crowdfunding campaign, and the company aims to popularise meat alternatives in Japan. Both the harami- and kalbi-style yakiniku meats are made entirely of soybeans, can be purchased online (¥1,950 per five 80g packages), and come delivered frozen and sealed in airtight packages.
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. Yakiniku, meaning “grilled meat”, is a Japanese term that, in its broadest sense, refers to grilled meat cuisine. “Yakiniku” originally referred to western “barbecue” food, the term being popularized by Japanese writer Kanagaki Robun in his Seiyo Ryoritsu in 1872.You cook it just like standard meat; it mimics the meaty texture so well, the company claims you’ll have a hard time telling the soy-based meat from the real thing.
For now, you’ll have to buy the vegan yakiniku online and cook it at home, but Next Meats is keen to see plant-based meat on the menu at yakiniku restaurants in the future.