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A Quick Guide to Eating Vegan at Japanese Restaurants in Seattle

Green Sea Monster at Shiku Sushi. Photo by Raechel Kundert

A Quick Guide to Eating Vegan at Japanese Restaurants in Seattle

By Raechel Kundert, For the North American Post

I’ve been vegan for nearly six years now, and I was vegetarian for seven years before that, so I have over a decade of experience navigating restaurant menus. Whenever I tell people that I’m vegan and love Japanese food, they’re always surprised and curious about how I can eat anything in a cuisine that’s seen as full of fish and other meat in every dish. I’ve witnessed a lot of vegans shy away from Japanese food because of this misconception, and I’ve seen a lot of opposition towards eating vegan dishes by non-vegans because people feel like they have to sacrifice parts of their culture. Through this article, I hope to show everyone that there is a happy middle ground, where vegan Japanese food can be enjoyed by all.

Vegan Japanese food is far more common than one might think. Many restaurants offer vegan staples, like inarizushi, avocado and kappa maki, tsukemono, and more. There are some things to watch out for though, like hidden bonito flakes (katsuobushi), egg-based tempura, and honey. If you’re ever unsure, you can always ask the restaurants about specific ingredients! All of the dishes on this list have been confirmed to be vegan by the restaurants themselves, but it is not exhaustive, so it’s worth taking a look at the menus yourself. North to south, and west to east, here are six of the best vegan-friendly Japanese restaurants in the area:

Shiku Sushi, 5310 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle. Sun-Thurs, 4:30-8:45 pm, Fri-Sat, 4:30-9:45 pm. Indoor dining daily; indoor & outdoor, Thurs-Sun. Takeout and delivery, 206-588-2151.

Shiku Sushi is home to the “Green Sea Monster,” by far the most popular item for vegans at Shiku. Filled with tempura vegetables and tofu, and topped with seaweed salad and avocado, each bite is a complex burst of flavor. If you really love tempura, the Veggie Deluxe Roll has you covered, filled with vegetable tempura inside and covered in more vegetable tempura pieces on top. Hold the ponzu! For a fresh-sushi option, try the avocado, cucumber, or vegetable hand rolls (also available as cut rolls), or inarizushi. If all the tempura is too dense for you, you can lighten up your meal with a bowl of seaweed salad. The staff at Shiku are always happy to answer questions and help you navigate the menu!

Disclaimer: I currently work at Shiku Sushi, but I’m including it because it genuinely has great vegan options; I know firsthand Shiku can accommodate any dietary restrictions, especially if you notify the staff!

Fremont Bowl, 4258 Fremont Ave N, Ste #4262, Seattle. Tue-Fri, 11:30 am-2 pm & 4:30-9 pm, Sat-Sun, 11:30 am-2:30 pm & 4:30-9 pm. Takeout and delivery only, 206-504-3095.

Fremont Bowl is a small restaurant with big servings! Topped with fried bean curd, fresh tofu, seaweed salad, and your choice of yuzu soy dressing or a sweet spicy sauce, the Tofu Poke is an excellent option for vegans. Offered as either a donburi bowl or a salad, this dish will leave you feeling refreshed and satisfied. While you’re there, you can pick up some vegan sides, like seaweed salad, inari, veggie gyoza, and veggie croquettes. It’s worth visiting Fremont Bowl for the atmosphere alone, but the food will not disappoint! The staff is very friendly, and I think about Fremont Bowl quite often because of how delicious its food is. I cannot recommend this restaurant enough!

To be continued in the March 12 issue

Raechel Kundert is a hostess at Shiku Sushi. She posted an earlier version of this article to the JCCCW website (jcccw.org), where she started interning in January 2021. When not doing either, she is a UW student who enjoys studying Japanese and listening to music.

Editor’s note. A vegan diet involves eating only plant-based foods (no meat, eggs, or dairy). Earnest practitioners also avoid honey. It is a stricter than vegetarianism, where many adherents still consume eggs and dairy.