Veg-An: Authentic Homemade Japanese Vegan Cuisine in Singapore

vegan veg-an

Founded on January 2021, Veg-An (pronounced “Veggie An”) is a small-scale home-based business dedicated to offering authentic Japanese vegan bento meals. Operated by Kennard and Tomoe, a husband-and-wife team with a passion for their cause, Veg-An aims to promote a plant-based diet and vegan lifestyle as a means to combat climate change and improve animal welfare.

Background of Veg-An Founders

The name “Veg-An” is a playful take on the word “Vegan,” reflecting the lifestyle that both Kennard and Tomoe embrace. In Japanese, “An” refers to a small secluded hut, symbolizing their home-based business model. Kennard, born and raised in Singapore, has a deep fascination with Japanese culture and history. He majored in Japanese studies at the National University of Singapore and spent time in Fukuoka, Kyoto, and Okayama, Japan. After two years working for a Japanese semiconductor company in Singapore, he then moved on to work for the Kagoshima Prefectural Government in various capacities for over 14 years, gaining insights into the unique historical developments, local dialects, and culinary culture of various Japanese regions.

Tomoe, originally from Okayama Prefecture, Japan, majored in English and lived in Singapore from 2006 to 2010 before moving to Kagoshima with Kennard. They returned to Singapore in 2016, where Tomoe embraced the local food culture, enjoying dishes like Chinese tze char, Sambal Kangkong, Indian Thosai with Dhal curry, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Bak Chor Mee, and Mala hot pot.

The Journey to Veganism

Kennard’s path to veganism began in 2008 when he learned that processed meat and red meat were classified as Group 1 Human Carcinogens by the World Health Organization. This led him to eliminate these products from his diet, eventually adopting a vegan lifestyle by 2016. His transition was driven by compassion for animals and a desire for a healthier lifestyle. According to Kennard, his vegan journey has been liberating and filled with excitement and new discoveries of plant-based living. His only regret is not going vegan earlier.

Tomoe made the decision to go vegan in 2019 when she learned about the environmental impact of the livestock industry. She realized the unsustainable nature of animal consumption and felt a responsibility to leave a better world for her children. Together, they decided to channel their passion into a business that promotes veganism and offers nutritious, delicious meals.

Birth of Veg-An

During the COVID-19 pandemic when Kennard’s regular job was impacted by restrictions, him and his wife turned adversity into opportunity by starting Veg-An as a side hustle. Back in 2016, upon returning to Singapore from Japan, they noticed the lack of availability of Japanese home cooked food, especially vegan options, in the local market. This gap inspired them to create Veg-An, offering authentic Japanese vegan food to support the local vegan and vegetarian community and encourage non-vegans to try plant-based meals as a simple but delicious way to fight climate change.

Veg-An aims to provide an authentic dining experience for Japanese home-cooked food and vegan versions of regional specialties to Singaporeans, which are not commonly available here.

Philosophy of Veg-An

Veg-An’s menu features a variety of rice-based bento sets, udon and soba noodles, Oden stew, and side dishes. The key concepts behind their offerings include:

  • Authenticity: Tomoe hand-makes all dishes, capturing the true flavors of Japanese home cooking.
  • Convenience: Meals are freezable and easy to heat up, making them perfect for quick meal fixes at home or work.
  • Nutritional Balance: Each meal includes a wide range of vegetables and grains, providing zero cholesterol and are rich in protein and fiber.
  • Health: Various cooking methods like stewing, blanching, marinating, and stir-frying are used, with only one deep-fried item per bento to limit oil use.
  • Flavor: Dishes are crafted with Japanese seasonings such as Koji, black vinegar, and fermented ingredients, promoting gut health.
  • Appearance: Bentos are packed neatly and attractively, as visual presentation is a crucial part of the dining experience and a mark of respect for the diner.

Veg-An Menu

Veg-An’s current menu features their latest Trio Bento Series, which is a series of three bentos that can be frozen for later consumption. This bento series was developed to support busy working folks who require quick meal fixes which are convenient and nutritionally well-balanced.

The signature dish in Veg-An’s Trio series, the Classic Noriben

Their signature product, and best-seller, is the Trio Classic Noriben. In Japan, Noriben is a beloved bento, known for its diverse combination of dishes, each with its own unique twist depending on the store or eatery. Before adopting veganism, Kennard often enjoyed Noriben while working and living in Kagoshima, making it his go-to lunch option several times a week. However, traditional Noriben contains fish, which Kennard stopped consuming after becoming vegan.

Missing its distinctive flavor, Kennard had the idea to recreate a vegan version when Veg-An was developing its menu. Tomoe took on the challenge, and the result is a vegan Noriben that captures the essence of the original dish. They even improved it by reducing the number of deep-fried items and incorporating a broader variety of vegetables and grains to enhance its nutritional balance. The taste remains as delightful and authentic as the Noriben they enjoyed in Japan.

The Trio Yakitori Bento

Next up on their signature Trio series is a more familiar dish, the Trio Yakitori Bento. This dish features torched shiitake mushrooms, edamame tofu nuggets in home-made Yakitori sauce, crispy plant-based fish fingers, spinach marinade, steamed Japanese sweet potatoes, Japanese pickles and shredded seaweed, all of which sits on a bed of fluffy Koshihikari rice from Ishikawa, Japan and 16 types of mixed grains. This bento contains a staggering 24 types of vegetables and grains!

The Trio Sanshokudon

The third option in the Trio series is the Sanshokudon, which contains the lowest oil content of the three main dishes. This bento features flavoured firm tofu, plant based mince soboro, boiled salted French beans, Lion’s Mane mushrooms, pan fried lotus root, Japanese stewed pumpkin and Japanese pickles, sitting on top of the same delicious bed of rice and grains as the other two bentos.

Takushoan Zaru Soba / Udon

Other than the Trio bento series, Veg-An also offers vegan versions of other traditional Japanese dishes.

Takushoan is the name of a popular small family-run soba restaurant in chef Tomoe’s hometown of Akaiwa city in Okayama prefecture, which ceased operations in 2023. The Takushoan Zaru Soba is chef Tomoe’s vegan tribute to this wonderful restaurant.

This dish comes with soba noodles, but it can be changed to udon instead.

Dashi Oden

For people on low-carb diets, Veg-An has you covered as well! The Dashi Oden is a hearty stew, slow-cooked in their original Oden broth, featuring plant-based bonito stock, radish chunks, juicy ganmodoki tofu, chewy konjac and shirataki konjac noodles, fluffy potatoes and firm tofu, served with fragrant Yuzukosho citrus pepper.

Veg-An’s dedication to authentic, healthy, and convenient Japanese vegan cuisine has gained a loyal following in Singapore, and was featured in an article by Lianhe Zaobao. By providing delicious, balanced meals, Kennard and Tomoe continue to support and grow the local vegan community, making a positive impact on both health and the environment.

If you enjoy Japanese food, Veg-An’s incredibly creative and delicious offerings are an absolute must-try, even if you are not a vegan!

Do follow Veg-An on IG and order your delicious Veg-An bentos today at their BlockChef store!

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