The plant-based market is expanding rapidly as consumers become more environmentally conscious and food diversity spreads. Recently, plant-based meat and plant-based milk have become more readily available at supermarkets, and their use is spreading in Japan as well. In this context, did you know that “plant-based seafood” is beginning to appear against the backdrop of the depletion of marine resources, which is becoming more serious year by year?
In order to contribute to the conservation of marine resources, one means is not only to use certified marine products with clear traceability, but also to utilize plant-based seafood. In this column, we will introduce five plant-based seafood products that are manufactured and sold in Japan. We hope you will consider them as a means of contributing to the preservation of “fish,” an essential part of Japan’s food culture, and enhancing inbound customer attraction.
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Plant base derived from konjac flour
“Azuma Foods Co., Ltd.” a fresh processed food manufacturer that manufactures, wholesales, imports, and exports foodstuffs for commercial use, has released the “As if Fish Series,” a 100% plant-based seafood alternative made mainly from konjac flour, from its “GREEN SURF” brand, which specializes in plant-based seafood alternatives. The first three products in the series were released: Tuna as if it were Tuna, Salmon as if it were Salmon, and Squid as if it were Squid.
The “As if Fish Series” not only focuses on flavor and texture, but also faithfully reproduces the appearance of real sashimi by adding white threads. Also, compared to sashimi, which is easily damaged and has a short shelf life, this product can be frozen and stored for 730 days, thus reducing food loss. Another feature of this product is that it is vegan certified by “Vege Project Japan, a non-profit organization”.
In September 2022, a three-day limited campaign was held on the basement floor of Isetan Shinjuku’s main building, entitled “The evolution never stops! The next generation food feature” featured six different menus prepared by professional chefs from the “As if Fish Series”. The menu included chirashizushi, kaisendon, caprese, marinade, and other dishes that have been difficult to achieve on a plant-based basis up to now, and proved very popular. The products can be purchased at the company’s official online store ( go to external site).
Plant base made from alginic acid from drifting seaweed
salted salmon roe (i.e. individual mature eggs)
“Mr. Orange Co., Ltd.” which operates a citrus orchard, has developed and is marketing a vegan food called “Petitel (product name for commercial use: Mizu-Tamago). Petitel is a granular food made from alginic acid, which is derived from seaweed. Simply soaking Petitel in a liquid with flavor, color, and aroma for 24 hours is said to fix the taste.
I wondered how much it was, but they said it was a new food called Mizu-tamago. pic.twitter.com/diAaxhsqx7
– Taro Kono (@konotarogomame) March 12, 2021
“Petitel” became a topic of conversation when it was used in a “vegan seafood bowl” served at a cafeteria of the Cabinet Office. Originally, there existed a cooking technique called “spherification,” in which sauces and other ingredients are covered with a gelatinous membrane to form a spherical shape, but because it required a special technique, it was used only in a few restaurants in Japan. By using petitel, anyone can easily reproduce spherification in any genre of food, sweets, drinks, etc., and the texture of the poping texture remains intact over time.
Petitel can be purchased on the official website ( go to external site) and can be tried in small quantities. It is a sustainable ingredient that can be used not only as a substitute for salmon roe, but can also be arranged in a variety of ways depending on your creativity.
For more information on environmental issues surrounding salmon eggs, please click here.
Soybean-derived plant base
“FUJI OIL CO., LTD.” which manufactures and sells food products, has developed a substitute food for sea urchin called “Soy Uni,” which is made from 100% plant-derived ingredients such as soy milk cream made with its own patented technology.
Soy Uni faithfully reproduces the stickiness and coarse texture of sea urchin, and the taste is said to be comparable to that of real sea urchin. In addition, compared to real sea urchins, soi urchins are less prone to discoloration and can be frozen for storage, which helps prevent food loss due to quality deterioration. Another characteristic of sea urchin is that it is consistent in quality and has no odor. If you would like to consider introducing soi uni to your menu, you can inquire at the company’s official website ( go to the external site).
Thanks for all the answers to the sea urchin quiz yesterday😊.
Which one is the sea urchin made of soybeans?
Actually, the correct answer is “that both are made of soybeans! ”
Maybe it was a bit of a mean quiz 💦 pic.twitter.com/6JomXU5SOl
– Fuji Oil Group (@fujioilgroup) August 19, 2022
The company is also making practical use of the sea urchin in a pop-up event held in Yurakucho, Tokyo, in October 2021 for one month only, offering a 100% plant-based menu, in which “Soi Uni Doria” prepared with soi urchin was served. A reporter who tasted the sea urchin doria during an interview with “ANN News” commented, “The texture is very smooth and the flavor is completely sea urchin, but there is no fishy smell, so it is very easy to eat.
For more information on environmental issues surrounding sea urchins, please click here.
How was it? In this column, we introduced “plant-based seafood” manufactured and sold in Japan. The active use of plant-based seafood by restaurants will not only contribute to the conservation of marine resources, but will also enhance vegan and vegetarian options for attracting inbound customers.
The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare announced that deregulations such as the removal of the cap on the number of people entering Japan to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will begin on October 11, 2022, and that the wearing of masks indoors, which was previously mandatory, will be left to the independent judgment of individuals from March 13, 2023 onward. In addition, according to the ” Inbound Response Guidebook for Restaurant Businesses” published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the most frequently cited answer in a survey of foreign tourists was “eating Japanese food” when asked what they expected most before visiting Japan.
On the other hand, a survey conducted by the Japan Tourism Agency targeting vegetarians and other visitors to Japan revealed that 55% of “respondents have given up on a dish they wanted to eat because there was no vegetarian option”, and 45% said “they would not enter a restaurant unless it was a vegetarian-friendly restaurant.”
With the coronavirus pandemic under control, the number of foreign tourists is expected to increase further, making it essential for restaurants to respond to food diversity. The use of plant-based seafood, which is a 100% plant-based reproduction of “fish”, an essential element of Japanese cuisine, in the development of menu items will help to differentiate them from other restaurants.
[Reference Site]Next generation seafood “Green Surf Brand” introduced in a special program on Nippon Television! The first product is scheduled to be released this summer!
[Reference Site] GREEN SURF brand continues to make media appearances!
[Reference site] ISETAN Shinjuku – Food for the Future -〜 Next Generation Food! ～
[Reference Site] [Alternative foods have evolved to this point] A total of more than 20 next-generation food dishes at Isetan Shinjuku Store
[Reference Site] FUJI OIL to Hold Plant-Based Food UPGRADE Pop-up in Yurakucho in October – From TOFU to Soybean Meat, Soy Milk Cheese and Soy Uni
[Reference Site] Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries: Inbound Response Guidebook for Food and Beverage Businesses
[Reference Site] Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare: Wearing a mask
[Reference Site] Japan Tourism Agency: Vegetarian and Vegan Guide for Food and Beverage Businesses, etc.