I know it bugs some of you to answer the ubiquitous question we get as plant-powered people : “Well, what do you eat?Tofu?” But, I get really geeked out and excited to share the foodie bounty we get to choose from as a veg*ns.
One of my go-to spots for a cheap and cheerful lunch on Oahu is Shirokiya in the Ala Moana Shopping Center. Shirokiya is a Japanese department store that features one of the most impressive displays of what a food court should be. It is not exclusively veg*n, but trust me, if you can’t find something to eat here – you’re just being difficult! If you enter the store from the mall level, you can peruse the baked goods from St. Germain Bakery. Stroll by the kiosks to sample waffle donuts or manju if you’re feeling adventurous.
Head up the escalators and prepare to have your senses overwhelmed. Each month, a different food is featured and a festival type atmosphere is created to celebrate. One month it may be tonkatsu (fried meats) and the next it might be mochi (sweets made with a rice flour base) or musubi (rice balls). Bentos, sushi, soups, salads, made to order dishes, tempura, and a buffet line are offered all year long.Take your time and be sure to look at everything before you make your selection. Two laps around the upper level is recommended because you may miss something delicious the first time around.
My personal favorite is the selection of okazu (side dishes) with every vegetable you could imagine. My mouth begins to water when I see namasu (pickled cucumbers, radish,seaweed) and the hijiki (seasoned seaweed). If you are garlic lover like me, try the pink pickled garlic for a taste delight. I could seriously eat that stuff like candy and BONUS-keep the vampires away. If you’re taste buds are steering you towards something heartier, try the nishime (vegetable stew) filled with lotus root, shiitakes, carrots and more. There are cases of salads and rows of fresh produce for the super health conscious but if you’re on vacation and feeling naughty, try the fried delights like vegetable tempura. I have a special place in my heart for kabocha (Asian pumpkin) and sweet potato tempura hot out of the fryer. If you’re head is starting to spin and you need to make a quick get away, grab a bento (mixed lunch box), an assortment of veggie sushi or a musubi set to go with your oshinko (pickled veggies) and your meal is complete. Noodle-philes can get your carb on with yakisoba (fried noodles) or bowl of udon (fat noodles in broth) with different toppings.
The ingredient list is labeled on most of the packaged food, which makes avoiding certain allergens/animal products easy. One caveat: If you are a strict vegan, ask if them item you’ve selected is free of bonito (fish flakes), as this ingredient is often used in miso soup, broths and some dipping sauces. I tell the staff that I am allergic to seafood and they are very accommodating.
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