I recently took my brand, NAKEDFOOD to Kyoto where I consulted for a smart luxury hostel and hotel group called “Piece”. The group is made up of hostels, Piece Hostel Kyoto, Piece Hostel Sanjo and premium hotel, 22 Pieces. Founder, Nobuyuki Tabata had a singular vision for the Piece Group in that it was built for “active travelers” to meet people from around the world and experience Kyoto beyond the surface at an affordable price. And that is truly the feeling when you walk through the cafe or the lobby. Interesting people stream in and out 24 hours a day with a ready smile and good vibe.
All private rooms have showers and toilets. From personal experience, the generously large beds with pure white bedding, so cleverly fit into a minimal space giving one the feeling of luxury, but on a budget. Also, if you like me are not fond of small spaces, you will appreciate the large window right above the bed and an equally large mirror opposite the bed to create an impression of even more space.
For this project, Piece wanted to launch a raw and cooked vegan bar food menu for its international and local guests. Although vegan food is available in Japan and is growing in popularity, it isn’t yet as established as it is in other countries. I was excited to be able to share what I know and spent a productive two weeks in Kyoto, training the staff on 4 popular NAKEDFOOD recipes. The recipes were:
I learned the basic dumpling recipe at the Matthew Kenney Raw Culinary Institute (back in the day before he sold it. In the original recipe, we used raw, young coconut flesh and spinach juice to make the dumpling wrappers but since it was impossible to find young coconut in Taipei, I experimented with other vegetables until I found that raw tomatoes were the perfect pairing for the piquant raw kimchi flavours inside. The other ingredients inside are cashew, sesame paste (always housemade), sesame oil and soy sauce. This dumpling recipe appeals to all kinds of palates as it is a combination of sweet, salty, sour and tart. They are perfect at wine tasting events, corporate receptions, wedding receptions, and canapé events.
Custom-baked slider buns, warmed on a drizzle of olive oil in a hot pan, dressed with pan-grilled eggplant, slathered with a staunch cashew cheddar cheese sauce, onions caramelized in coconut sugar and paprika until they melt into a gooey, sticky yumiony mass , fresh, crisp baby cucumber and buttery butter lettuce as the final addition. Moorish, delectable goodness.
The BBQ “pulled pork” burger is originally made with monkey-head mushrooms, the application process of which takes several days, a calm demeanour and good 80’s soft rock playlist, however we couldn’t find the mushroom in Japan and customs wouldn’t let us cart body-bag-sized containers over the ocean so we opted for tempeh. Funny thing, I had only started playing with tempeh in my home kitchen not even a few weeks prior to the project and after disliking it immensely figured out how to hide that iron-y taste. It is the greatest chameleon of ingredients since it sucks up the flavour of any spice and oil it is marinated with and does a clever little show of pretending to be meat. It was fun being challenged in finding a substitute and after several calls to Indonesian businesses in central Kyoto, we found a restaurant willing to sell us a magnanimous amount of tempeh that we kept in dry storage. And honestly, my beloved Japanese friends, you need to break up with Amazon. It’s a bit of a codependent relationship you have with Amazon.
Finally, cultured tree-nut cheese. The se cheeses are fermented, seasoned, airdried then aged. The flavours available will be red wine onion jam, original and lemon and rosemary. You can enjoy the dairy-free cheeses with superb fruit jams, fresh fruit and hearty French loaves!
My time in Kyoto was like a dream. It is one of the most gorgeous cities I’ve ever visited, the architecture is disciplined and elegant, the people sooooo warm and kind (spontaneous gestures of help for confused-looking foreigners abound ;), and beautiful serene, temples are a hop, skip and jump away. Check out Nison In Temple in Arashiyama. Once you bat your way past the tourist buses and fried chicken stands ruining the famed bamboo forest, Nison In is tucked away past some rice paddies and up a regal forested pathway. It truly was the highlight of the trip. I felt all the tension off my body as I strolled through the temple grounds, admiring the clean plumbing and spotless walkways. Haha, no seriously, check out the water pipes. I was amazed. Not a speck of moss or mold. Japan has completely captivated me and I am so happy that the vegan movement is growing there and that NAKEDFOOD is a part of it!