Meet Wayne Taniguchi, the sushi chef at Seastar Restaurant And Raw Bar. As one of Bellevue’s premier seafood eateries, you’d expect a lot of fresh catches from the sea in Wayne’s sushis, but vegan sushis are all the rage right now and he has 15 vegan versions on custom order, plus one (a Tempura fried spicy vegan tuna roll) on his standard menu.
We spoke to Wayne Taniguchi to know more about vegan sushis, how they evolved and why they’re not such an unusual, outlier item at a traditional sushi bar after all.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: Why are vegan sushis getting so popular in the Pacific Northwest?
A: Sushis in general are healthy, but I think people in the Bellevue and Greater Seattle area are becoming more conscious than ever about making healthy food choices.
Q: Does traditional Japanese food have a lot of vegetarian options?
A: In Japan, we traditionally eat a lot of vegetables with small amounts of meats. Our meals are usually half or more of veggies and the remaining protein. We cook, prepare and eat a lot of vegetables because it tastes good, not necessarily because they’re healthier.
Shojin Ryori (vegetarian cuisine) has been popular in Japan for the longest time. It originated with the Buddhist monks who eat vegetables only. In fact, many foreigners who visit Japan, choose to stay in Buddhist temple lodgings and enjoy their Shojin Ryori and meditation.
Q: Describe a few vegan sushis that are commonly eaten in Japan?
A: The most common vegan rolls there are the kappa (cucumber roll), oshinko (pickled radish roll), ume shiso (plum paste roll) natto maki (fermented soybean roll), and futomaki which is vegetarian but not vegan because it has some egg omelet in it.
At Seastar, we are doing our own version of the futomaki roll that is completely Vegan and Tempura style. We will have it on our menu starting Wednesday February 27.
Q: How many choices of vegan sushis are you currently serving at Seastar Restaurant And Raw Bar?
A: Listed on the menu right now is the Tempura fried spicy (vegan) tuna roll for $ 11.
But we also prepare custom sushi orders on the spot such as the oshinko maki or the kappa maki because we have the ingredients on hand at all times. We make different combinations of rolls using avocado, jalapeno, radish sprouts, shiitake mushrooms… I can go on and on. Sometimes I buy nopales (Mexican cactus) at the market and create a sushi roll with it.
At the core of our vegan sushis is ahimi — a plant-based alternative to raw tuna that is made from tomatoes. We spice it up with sriracha chili sauce, sesame seeds, sesame oil, chili powder and some green onions. All rolled up with toasted seaweed and sushi rice.
They’re creative and fun to prepare, and they’re also gaining traction as more and more people find out that we do have these options.
Interested in trying some?
Call Seastar Restaurant And Raw Bar at 425-456-0010 or click HERE to make a reservation.