Noodles and Pasta

So which noodles are vegan in Japan? As a general rule, udon noodles and soba noodles are vegan, while the majority of ramen noodles are not. (The soup or sauce that comes with udon, soba and ramen in non-vegan restaurants contains animal products like fish stock, etc.). However, udon and soba noodles are not always vegan, so vegans still need to be careful to check for animal ingredients. Below are some examples of vegan and non-vegan noodles in Japan.

How about pasta? That’s not such a problem. We’ve also included some examples of vegan and non-vegan pasta.

PASTA

It’s easy to find vegan pasta in supermarkets. Recently many supermarkets have begun carrying a small selection of whole-grain pastas as well. Vegans have to be careful with colored pasta. Black pasta can sometimes be colored with cuttlefish ink/イカスミ. Below are some examples of pasta available in Japan.

Hagoromo 7 Minute Spaghetti/はごろもフーズ ポポロスパ7分結束. Ingredients: Durum wheat semolina.

Hagoromo pastaHagoromo pasta back

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mitoku Whole Wheat Organic Penne Pasta/ミトク フェリチェッティ オーガニック全粒粉ペンネ. Ingredients: Organic durum wheat whole grain flour.

Penne pastaPenne pasta back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

• Della Costa Disney Princess Tricolored Pasta/ダラコスタ ディズニープリンセス . Ingredients: Durum wheat semolina, spinach, tomato. Photo from website.

della costa princess pasta tricolore

• De Cecco Fettucini no 303 All’uovo is not vegan because it has eggs. Ingredients: Durum wheat seminola, eggs.

The word “all’uovo” indicates that the product contains eggs/卵/tamago.

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However, not all kinds of fettucini have eggs. The below product from Mujirushi Ryouhin does not.

• Mujirushi Ryouhin Fresh Pasta Fettuccine/無印良品 生パスタ フェットチーネ. Ingredients: Durum seminola wheat flour, salt (Product contains wheat and buckwheat.)

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Below are some photos from a pasta display in a grocery store. Other than the fettucini first on the left on the top shelf in the first photo, which has egg, all the other products appear to be vegan. The gnocchi second from the left on the top shelf in the first photo has emulsifier and flavorings of unknown origin. (The two products at the right on the top shelf in the first photo are rosti potatoes, not pasta, and one has cheese).

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Smaller health food and specialty stores will sometimes carry non-seminola pastas. The photo below was taken at a small shop in Kurashiki, Okayama and shows green peas fusilli, red lentils fusilli and chickpeas fusilli.

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RAMEN

Although there may be a few choices for fresh or dried ramen noodles in the grocery store, probably 80-90% of ramen noodles are not vegan as they contain egg (vegan ramen is available at some restaurants like T’s Tan Tan in Tokyo station, Ueno station, and Narita Airport and Chabuton – see Fast Food, and T’s Tan Tan also has vegan cup noodles to take home).

Nama (raw) Ramen. Contains whole egg powder. Fired calcium, 焼成カルシウム, can also be derived from shells or eggshells.

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Here is another example of an ingredient list of ramen noodles that are not vegan because they contain calcium derived from shells (貝殻カルシウム), spotted at the Ramen Museum in Yokohama.

ramen restaurant non-vegan noodles

SOBA

The first soba is not vegan as it contains egg white (卵白):

Yude (boiling) Japanese Soba. Ingredients: Wheat flour, buckwheat flour, wheat protein, egg white, salt.

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The soba below appears to be vegan.

Nama (raw) Soba. Ingredients: Wheat flour, buckwheat flour, salt, reduced starch syrup, alcohol, acidity regulator, modified starch.

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TOFU

Tofu noodles are not very common, but supermarkets and convenience stores like Family Mart sometimes have pre-packaged noodle-shaped tofu with sesame sauce. The amino acids in the product are confirmed vegan, however, the manufacturer could not confirm if the sugar used in the product was bone char processed or not.

Be careful to get the product in the red-orange package with sesame tsuyu included, and not one in the blue package with fish included or the green package with egg and fish included. 

Kibun Tofu Somen Style with Sesame Tsuyu Sauce/紀文 豆腐そうめん風 胡麻つゆ付き. Ingredients: 【Noodle-shaped tofu】 Soybean (USA, Canada), starch components, salt/paste materials (processed starch, sodium alginate, polysaccharide thickener), coagulant (calcium chloride, magnesium chloride) (Contains soybeans as part of ingredients.)【Attached Sauce Packet】  Sugar, soy sauce, salt, sesame seed paste, sesame oil, yeast extract / seasoning (amino acid etc), thickener (processed starch), coloring (caramel), flavouring. (Includes wheat, sesame and soybeans as part of ingredients.) Manufactured on equipment that also processes eggs.

Roasted sesame was used to create the sauce. The products are meant to be eaten cold, without cooking. Open the noodle container and throw out the water, then add the sauce to the noodles and eat. 

This product has recently been repackaged. A photo of the old package is shown on the left, and a photo of the new package is shown on the right. Photo on right from website.

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Kibun Tofu Somen Style with Mentsuyu Sauce/紀文 豆腐そうめん風 麺つゆ付き contains fish in the sauce, as is typical for mentsuyu not made in a vegan restaurant.

The package has been changed recently. The old packaging is shown on the left, and the new packaging is shown on the right. Photo on the right from website.

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Kibun Tofu Somen Style with Egg/紀文 玉子とうふそうめん風 is not vegan as it contains fish and egg.

Photo from website.

egg tofu noodles new package

UDON

Yude (boiling) Udon. Ingredients: Wheat flour, salt. Note: manufactured in a facility that also makes products containing egg.

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Let’s move on to discussing some noodles you can take with you while you’re on the go or only have access to limited cooking facilities.

CUP NOODLES

The vegan restaurant chain T’s makes instant vegan cup noodles in two flavors. They appear to be the only vegan cup noodles available to purchase in stores in Japan, although more can be ordered from websites like iHerb.

This product has been reformulated and repackaged, with a slightly different ingredient list. The new version of the product, launched September 2019, is shown here:

• T’s Noodle Hot and Sour Noodle Soup. Ingredients: Noodles (wheat flour, salt, soy dietary fiber), soup (soy sauce, sugars, brewed vinegar, salt, vegetable oil, miso, spice, yeast extract, garlic paste, flavor oil, shiitake extract, kelp powder) toppings (tofu, corn, bok choi, chili)/thickener (guar gum), lye water, caramel pigment, antioxidant (vitamin E), spice extract, red pepper pigment. (Product contains wheat, sesame and soy.)

t's tantan new version

• T’s Noodle Vegan Tantan Noodle Soup. Ingredients: Noodles (wheat flour, salt, soybean dietary fiber), soup (sesame seeds, salt, sugars, vegetable oil, yeast extract, broad bean chili sauce, onion powder, spices, flavor oil, sweet soybean paste, protein hydrolyzate, shiitake extract), toppings (bok choi, sesame, granular soybean protein, edamame, spices)/lye water, thickening polysaccharides, caramel pigment, antioxidant (vitamin E), acidulant, red pepper pigment, spice extract. (Product contains wheat, sesame and soy)

t's tantan new version 2

The older version of the product is shown below. There may still be some online retailers selling this older version:

• T’s Noodle Hot and Sour Noodle Soup Ingredients: noodles (flour, salt, soybean dietary fiber), soup (soy sauce, sugar, salt, brewed vinegar, vegetable oil and fat, miso, spices, yeast extract, garlic paste, flavor oil, shiitake mushroom extract, kelp powder), condiments (cabbage, tomato, granular soybean protein, red pepper), lye water, thickener (guar gum), caramel colorant, antioxidant (vitamin E), spice extract, capsicum pigment. (Product includes sesame.)

• T’s Noodle Vegan Tantan Noodle Soup Ingredients: noodles (flour, salt, soybean dietary fiber), soup (sesame, salt, sugar, vegetable fat, miso, onion powder, yeast extract, chili bean sauce, spice, protein hydrolyzate, flavor oil, shiitake extract), condiments (sesame, granulated soybean protein, corn, bok choy, red pepper), thickener (processed starch, guar gum), lye water, caramel pigment, antioxidant (vitamin E), acidulant, capsicum pigment, spice extract.

Both flavors use non-fried noodles and use as few additives as possible.

They can be found in some Natural Lawson (not regular Lawson) convenience stores in Chiba, Saitama, and Kanagawa Prefectures, as well as Tokyo, and at T’s Tantan noodle shops and restaurants in the following locations:

T’s Tantan:
JR Tokyo train station (behind the ticket gates)
JR Ueno train station, Tokyo (behind the ticket gates)
Narita Airport (NRT), Terminal 2, Main Building, Fourth Floor (before passport control)
JR Sendai train station (Miyagi Prefecture)

T’s Restaurant:
Jiyugaoka, Tokyo

They can also be ordered online or found in the occasional NewDays convenience stores in JR East train stations or once in awhile, in regular supermarkets in larger cities in Japan.

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INSTANT NOODLES

Vegan instant noodles that require cooking on a stove are rare in Japan. The instant noodles in supermarkets all appear to contain animal products.

One brand you might be able to find is Samurai Ramen, which can be found at vegan food festivals or in some Don Quixote stores or ordered online. It comes in both a less expensive plastic pack and a gold gift pack. The plastic pack version is also available at selected Gyomu Supermarkets for 198 yen.

• Samurai Ramen Ingredients: Noodle (flour and salt), soup (soy sauce, sesame paste, miso, garlic, maple sugar, salt, yeast extract powder, rice refined oil, chili oil, garlic extract, starch, ginger powder, seaweed powder, black pepper and red pepper) Spices (cayenne pepper powder), lye water. (Includes wheat, soybeans and sesame.)

Chemical condiments & additives & preservative-free.

The list of Gyomu supermarkets carrying the 198 yen plastic pack version is as follows:

Kanto Area:
Ebina
Yotsukaido
Makuharihongō
Kawaguchi Eki-mae
Ueno-hirokoji

Kansai Area:
Nishikujō
Nishiyodogawa
Harborland
Kyujoji Eki-minami
Ooyasutei
Hanata
Tadera
Shimoteno
Momodani
Izumisano
Takaishi Ayazono
Ritto
Minoh
Esaka
Oshikuma
Southern Mall Rokko
Izumisano Nakasho

Kyushu Area:
Hakozaki station
Shinmunakata
Hakata sensho

Photo on the left from website.

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If you have a health food store near you, you’ll probably be able to find more kinds of vegan instant ramen there, or order online. Some examples of vegan instant ramen available at health food stores are shown below.

• Ohsawa Veggie Brown Rice Ramen, Miso/オーサワのベジ玄米ラーメン(みそ). Ingredients: Noodles (flour, brown rice flour, wheat gluten, salt), miso, soy sauce, fermented seasoning, maple sugar, spice, vegetable oil (sesame oil), salt, yeast extract, kelp powder. (Product includes wheat, soy and sesame.)

Products containing shrimp, crab, soba, egg, milk, and peanuts are processed in the same factory.

Marked “does not use animal ingredients or chemical seasoning” in Japanese on the package and “for vegan” in English. Uses domestic wheat and brown rice flour, no lye water, and non-fried noodles.

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• Ohsawa Veggie Brown Rice Ramen, Tantanmen/オーサワのベジ玄米ラーメン(担担麺). Ingredients: Noodles (flour (from Hokkaido and Iwate), brown rice flour (domestic), wheat gluten (Australia), salt), soup [sesame, salt, mirin, edible vegetable oil (sesame oil, paprika), sake, soy sauce, miso, maple sugar, yeast extract, spice (garlic, ginger, chili pepper, pepper), potato starch]

Uses “shimamars” salt, which is made by dissolving imported solar salt in Okinawa sea water and slowly boiling it in a flat pot over time.

Products containing shrimp, crab, soba, egg, milk, and peanuts are processed in the same factory.

Marked “does not use animal ingredients or chemical seasoning” in Japanese on the package and “for vegan” in English. Uses domestic wheat and brown rice flour, no lye water, and non-fried noodles.

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Sakurai Foods, headquartered in Gifu, is a company making various types of vegan instant noodles. They can be found in health food shops or ordered online. From the English section of their website: “Our history begins in 1910, when the Sakurai family purchased a machine to process noodles in Gifu Prefecture, Japan. Maintaining operation through World War II and onward, in 1968, the Sakurai family business started to produce and sell additive-free and natural products without artificial coloring. At that time, the commercial industry was moving heavily into mass production and mass consumption, creating an era where efficiency in production was top priority. It was during this era that the Sakurai Foods defined their mission to commit to quality rather than to efficiency.”

To guarantee the safety of our goods, we are committed to manufacturing and selling a variety of food products with ingredients from domestically contracted farmers who use organic or ecologically friendly methods to produce their agricultural products.

Our imported food items have cleared both national JAS-certified organic standards and organic standards abroad.”

• Sakurai Foods Organic Soy Sauce Ramen/桜井食品 有機育ち しょうゆラーメン. Ingredients: Organic noodles (organic flour, salt), organic soy sauce, organic brewed seasoning, organic sesame oil, salt, organic coconut sugar, organic yeast extract powder, onion extract, garlic extract, green onion extract, kelp powder, pepper. (Product includes soy.)

Marked “vegan” in English on the package.

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• Sakurai Foods Spicy Soymilk Ramen/桜井食品 豆乳ぴり辛めん. Ingredients: Fried noodles (flour (domestically produced), vegetable oil (palm oil, sesame oil), wheat protein, potato starch, salt), sesame, soymilk, soy sauce, vegetable oil, salt, yeast extract powder, chili oil, spices, cabbage extract. (Product contains wheat, soy, sesame seeds.)

Marked “vegan” in English on the package.

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Sakurai Foods Ramen for Vegetarians/ベジタリアンのためのラーメン is an inexpensive and tasty product sold at many health food shops, but these photos were taken at the Ramen Museum in Yokohama, a fun place that also has many ramen restaurants, some of which can make vegan ramen. Ramen for Vegetarians comes in soy sauce and miso flavors. No animal ingredients are included.

Sakurai Foods Ramen for Vegetarians, Miso Ramen/桜井食品 ベジタリアンのためのラーメン 味噌ラーメン. Ingredients: Fried noodle [flour, vegetable oil (palm oil, sesame oil), potato starch, wheat protein, salt], powdered miso, salt, powdered soy sauce, maple sugar, yeast extract, spice, shiitake extract, fermented seasoning, vegetable extract, kelp powder, malt extract, sesame oil, menma powder. (Product includes soybeans.)

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Sakurai Foods Ramen for Vegetarians, Soy Sauce Ramen/桜井食品 ベジタリアンのためのラーメン 醤油ラーメン. Ingredients: Fried noodle [flour, vegetable oil (palm oil, sesame oil), potato starch, wheat protein, salt], salt, powdered soy sauce, maple sugar, yeast extract, spice, sesame, powdered miso, vegetable extract, fermented seasoning, kelp powder, peanut powder, almond powder, shiitake mushroom powder, Japanese bunching onion, shiitake mushroom extract, malt extract, sesame oil, menma powder. (Product includes soybeans.)

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• Sakurai Foods Vegetarian Stir-Fried Noodles, Worchestershire Sauce Flavor/桜井食品 ベジタリアンのソース焼きそば. Ingredients: Deep-fried noodles (flour (domestically produced), vegetable oil (palm oil and sesame oil), wheat protein, potato starch, salt), maltose, tomato puree, salt, rice vinegar, apple pulp, vegetable oil, yeast extract powder, cabbage extract, malt extract, spices, furikake seasoning (green laver seaweed, red pickled ginger). (Product includes wheat, apples and sesame seeds.)

This version of the classic and usually non-vegan dish yakisoba is vegan/oriental vegetarian with no msg. Marked vegan in English on the package.

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