Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Anglophile in Little Tokyo: Shojin

When you think about it, Britain and Japan have very similar cultures. Both are hell bent on good manners, are quiet and unobtrusive on the subway, and have a remarkable way of showing stern disapproval without saying a word. Well, at least my college roommate had that skill, and I have thereafter attributed it to all Japanese women. The silent enforcers of law, propriety and cleanliness. If anyone left anything out on the table, that unfortunate person would feel an unmistakable and powerful wrath. Ah, my dear roommate. I miss her. I hope she got the birthday present I sent…

Maybe it’s the season, and maybe it’s all the cherries at the farmers markets, but I am missing Japan. And when I miss a place, I start craving the indigenous cuisine. With England, it was meat pies, bangers and beer. For Japan, it’s Sushi, Okonomi-yaki (which I made the other night), and the Buddhist Vegan food at Shojin, right here in Little Tokyo.
When I went to Tokyo two summers ago, I didn’t have anything like vegan food. I had some very weird food, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t come across Buddhist Vegan until I was in Downtown LA. Shojin restaurant was trying to spread the word of their recent opening by setting up a stall at the Little Tokyo Farmers Market at City Hall. And as always, I was very receptive to receiving that word—always eager to try things I haven’t seen before. The petite Asian girl manning the counter was trying to ascertain their client base and asked “are you vegan?” Nope. “Are you vegetarian?” Nah-ah. She looked perplexed. I asked her “What would you recommend?” “The Seitan balls [for beginners].” She didn’t say it, and was too polite to show it, but I knew what she was thinking. I was a meat-eating newb.
Every week after that I tried something else, and let me tell you—there are no bounds to what you can do with soy. Tofu is the tip of the Soy-berg. The truth is, I don’t know what the hell is in the food at Shojin. And normally, if I don’t know what’s in it, I stay A-W-A-Y. But the family who runs the restaurant is so earnest about their Buddhist Vegan ethos—a concept that requires some explanation, but for me, pares down to No Crap Added—that I trust them. Everything they make uses healthful oils, whole foods, all organic vegetables, and has no additives or chemicals. These are my kind of people. Even if I’m not vegan, or vegetarian, or Japanese, or Buddhist.

Last night I had dinner at Shojin with my boyfriend and one of our friends - none of us are Vegan/Vegetarian, but all of us are trying to lose weight. My trip to Kauai is coming up in a few weeks, so the deadline to look good in a bikini is looming. We figured Shojin would be a safe choice--and it was, even with delicious creamy curries, a savory fried pumpkin croquette, and barbequed seitan.
But then I had to go ruin it by buying a few cream puffs from Beard Papa's, which actually lived up to all the hype I've been hearing about them. Crisp, not too sweet pastry on the outside, whipped custard on the inside, and so much better than a donut. The best part? I still lost weight. Sweeeet. Shojin
333 S. Alameda St. Suite 310 (Little Tokyo Shopping Center 3F)
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Tel: 213-617-0305

1 comment:

Jessi said...

I didn't know Beard Papas had even opened in California! I looked at the website and there are tons! They're good, huh :D Japan should export their famous crepes, too!
And it'd be so fun to have you come back to Japan - there's so much more food we could try ^^ You're the perfect kind of guest because you are open to trying anything!!!