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Jul 19, 2014 12:19 PM

Recommended Japanese dishes for pescatarian with a milk allergy

I'm going to Japan in August, and I would love some suggestions of go-to fish or tofu dishes that I could order that don't contain butter, cheese, cream, milk, etc... I love food, I'm an adventurous eater, but I unfortunately have a milk allergy, I also don't eat chicken, beef or pork. It's really annoying to explain all all of this in restaurants. So, instead of explaining, I'd love to have a list of go-to dishes that I could seek out without having to trouble the restaurant with my allergy woes.

The first ones that came to mind, of course, is sushi, onigiri, kitsune soba, and zaru soba. Does anyone have dishes they'd recommend or suggestions? Any advice (other than 'don't go to Japan') would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. most restaurants don't serve onigiri. Sometimes at izakaya, you can get yakionigiri, but onigiri is mostly a home / convenience store thing.

    If you go to places like Katsukura, you can get ebi-fry which is fried shrimp. A lot of little Japanese restaurants have things like ebi fry or aji-fry or kaki-fry. In fact, most general Japanese restaurants have some sort of fish dish on the menu. Along the fried theme, tempura would be fine for you.

    if you go to a restaurant specializing in tofu, like Tofuya Ukai, for example, you'll be ok with pretty much anything on the menu. Outside a specialized tofu restaurant, I can think of agedashidoufu, but that's not really something you'd make a meal of. Tofu is usually used sparingly as a side dish or as part of a dish (like in mabodoufu or mabonasu). You don't see usually see a full meal or main dish of just tofu except at specialized tofu restaurants.

    Okonomiyaki might be OK, but it has egg in it, and you don't mention if egg is OK. You just have to choose your toppings carefully--obviously don't choose pork or cheese. But you could do shrimp and mochi, or just shrimp.

    And most traditional Japanese foods don't contain dairy products, so that's not really something you'll have to worry about unless you eat yo-shoku. Assuming you're talking an actual allergy (not lactose intolerance), you'll have to stay away from most Japanese chocolate, too, which is a shame.

    You could also do Italian. Spaghetti with just tomato sauce is pretty common.

    You don't say anything about where you'll be (or how long you'll be there or what the purpose of your visit is--all can influence recommendations), but you might be able to eat at a shojin-ryori place. It will be completely vegetarian and believe dairy-free, but you can't find it just anywhere.

    And if you happen to be at a depachika or supermarket, in the prepared foods section you can usually find kabocha croquette and various fried dishes with fish. Stay away from regular croquette, as it will usually have a little ground beef in it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: prasantrin

      Thanks so much for your reply. I do have an actual milk allergy, so, I'm very used to the no chocolates or dessert thing.

      As for the where and why of my trip, my husband is performing in a play at the Theatre Orb in the Shibuya Hikarie building from the end of July thru August 25th. So, I'll be joining him from August 8th to August 25th. He'll be staying at a hotel in Akasaka, and performing in Shibuya. We are on a small budget, since the two of us will be living off his per diem. I'm looking for inexpensive but good places to get a bite to eat. We live in Manhattan,we are theater actors, and we travel a lot, so we are very accustomed to eating in inexpensive, but fantastic hole-in-the wall places. Fine dining is simply out of our price range.

      My husband has two days off from performing every week, so we are also going to Nikko August 11th and 12th, and then Kyoto (staying at the Westin Miyako) August 18th and 19th. You mentioned shojin ryouri as a good option, if you know of any in the lower budget range, please let me know.

      Thanks again, in advance.

      1. re: prasantrin

        Forgot to mention in my reply that eggs are great. It's milk products (anything that comes from an udder) that are a problem for me.

      2. There is a vegetarian sushi restaurant that at least used to comes highly recomended. It's called Potager.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Roysen

          That restaurant (Potager) is gone.

        2. The concept is vegetables with rice flour made pocket bread (no milk used), the shop Green Greetings do delivery also in the Chiyoda area - so Akasaka is included, it might very convenient to try it once, for exemple the kinpira pocket !
          The only bread using meat is the stamina pocket with bacon, for this one, exceptionnaly, the salad sauce includes cream. Now you will have to specify that you avoid consomme, but I think you might enjoy the Japanese 'kimpira gobo' , or 'salad pocket'.
          Besides, on Chiyoda line, I recommend you the udon Ne no Zu at Nezu station for their summer version of 'bukkake' (sesame, daikon, oignons,..). Also the tofu sandwich at room Dy's, it is a cafe specialised in tofu, but still, some dishes contains meat, so you will have to specify your request. Tofu sandwich is usually only vegetable with tofu water cut, very dense.
          You can also always eat sushi. As I don't know your budget, it is difficult to recommend any place (price vary a lot for sushi). Also, don t blindly eat sushis, some (especially entry level places, like kaiten-sushi) serve bacon or other fancy things with meat.

          Green Greetings - station Kudanshita (delivery service in Chiyoda district)

          Tofu Dy's - station Nezu

          Udon Ne no Zu - station Nezu

          All of above shop serves lunch, dinner under 1500yens.

          1. As I've posted before, a terrific Japanese dish mostly not found in the US is himono, grilled dried fish. Best to seek out a place that specializes in it. I don't have a personal rec for you, though.

            Here is one place rated highly by Tabelog, an exhaustive restaurant site, but not in English:


            Although it is in Japanese, you can glean a lot of info such as location, specific menu items (and how they are written in Japanese), photos, hours, almost everything you need to know.