So which noodles are vegan in Japan? As a general rule, udon noodles and soba noodles are vegan, while 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. Further below are some examples of vegan and non-vegan pasta.
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.
The soba below appears to be vegan.
• Nama (raw) Soba. Ingredients: Wheat flour, buckwheat flour, salt, reduced starch syrup, alcohol, acidity regulator, modified starch.
• Yude (boiling) Udon. Ingredients: Wheat flour, salt. Note: manufactured in a facility that also makes products containing egg.
99.9% 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 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.
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.
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.
• 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.
• 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.
• De Cecco Fettucini no 303 All’uovo is not vegan because it has eggs. Ingredients: Durum wheat seminola, eggs.
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).
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.
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 import websites like iHerb.
• 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:
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)
They can also be ordered online.
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:
Southern Mall Rokko
Photo on the left from website.
If you have a health food store near you, you’ll probably be able to find more kinds of vegan instant ramen there.
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/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.)
• Sakurai Foods Ramen for Vegetarians, Soy Sauce Ramen/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.)