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    Plant-based food boom gives new glamour to Japanese menu staple

    ANN/THE JAPAN NEWS – Soyabeans have been a staple menu item for years, but new food made using the legume have started popping up in stores and eateries.

    “Many of the new soyabean products are low in sugar and fat, so I can eat them without feeling guilty,” said a 31-year-old company employee from Miyagi Prefecture. “Since a variety of soyabean-based food are now available at my local supermarket, I enjoy trying them.”

    Soyabean consumption has been on the rise in recent years. According to data compiled by the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, the daily consumption of soyabeans per person was 19 grammes in fiscal 2020, up by two compared to 2015.

    In March 2020, Kobe-based major food manufacturer Fujicco Co launched ‘Marugoto Daizu no Yoguruto,’ a new soyabean-based yogurt. The product has low acidity but the sweetness of soyabeans.

    “Although it’s low in calcium compared to standard yogurts, it’s popular because it’s high in fibre, soya isoflavone and other nutrients found in soyabeans,” said company official Kazumi Shikita.

    Yoshiko Kojima of SOi Space serves the cafe’s cheesecake and a soya drink in Yokohama; and some soya products on display. PHOTOS: THE JAPAN NEWS

    Fujicco also developed the Beanus Soya Rice series of products as a rice substitute.

    Some of the flavours available online include gapao rice and fried rice with takana spicy pickled leaves, which are frozen, in addition to regular dried Soya Rice.

    In November 2021, Imperfect Omotesando, a cafe and grocery store in Tokyo’s Omotesando district, began selling mayonnaise that substitutes soya milk for eggs and two types of dressings made from the soya mayonnaise.

    The cafe began thinking about creating soyabean-based products after it started receiving inquiries about plant-based products sometime around 2020.

    By incorporating spices and other ingredients, it developed its own mayonnaise, which tastes very similar to standard mayonnaise.

    Imperfect Omotesando also serves a vegan hot dog, which is made using soya meat, soya milk mayonnaise and soya milk dressing. “We have gotten positive feedback about the mayonnaise and it’s a big hit,” said Imperfect Omotesando’s marketing manager Misako Saeki.

    “We would like to continue developing more soyabean-based products.”

    In December, soya milk cafe SOi Space opened in the Minatomirai district of Yokohama in December.

    Among the shop’s more popular menu items are a cheesecake made with soya milk and okara soya pulp, and soya milk-based drinks made with kokuto brown sugar and black tea.

    The soya milk is produced at a nearby factory using soyabeans grown in Japan.

    “Japan’s self-sufficiency rate for soyabeans continues to be in the single digits,” said SOi Space manager Yoshiko Kojima. “By introducing customers to the superior taste of domestically produced soyabeans, we hope to help create an environment where soyabean production will increase.”

    A nutritionist well-versed in soyabeans Hitomi Fujihashi said, “Soyabeans are low in sugar and high in protein, which is well-suited to today’s health-conscious society.

    ”They are also attracting attention as a result of the growing interest in environmentally friendly plant-based food.

    “Soyabeans can be used in a variety of different ways and can be found in a variety of products, both Japanese and Western.”

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