Japanese food has had a healthy reputation – fresh fish, rice, and locally grown vegetables are often on the Japanese dinner table. However, if you want to stay healthy in Japan, you shouldn’t have to commit to a bland diet of steamed vegetables and rice because they also produce a variety of healthy snacks!
For example, the same locally produced vegetables can be consumed as chips– and while they may not constitute a complete nutritious food, they are still healthier than standard potato chips.
Japan produces a plethora of vegetable-based snacks. And whereas only a few years ago, it was difficult to obtain Japanese snacks, they are now easily found and purchased online. Let’s look at some of the popular Japanese vegetable chips available:
Mix Vegetable Chips
Mixed vegetable chips are among the healthiest and most delicious snacks on the Japanese market. The bags contain a variety of root vegetable chips, including pumpkin, tomato, okra, snow pea, daikon, and others. The chips have a light but pleasant salty flavor – just enough to fulfill your snack cravings without going overboard on the sodium.
Snap/Snow Pea Chips
Pea chips are mostly the rage in Japan right now, and some claim that they are superior to potato chips. Many Japanese brands make them, and there are a few common flavors to pick from: salt, Ranch, wasabi, or Caesar dressing. You can even get baked pea chips if you’re on a strict diet.
If you tried the Mix Vegetable Chips and preferred the tomatoes, or if you’re curious about how a tomato chip tastes, these are the perfect treat for you. Dried cherry tomatoes, whole, with a delightful tart aftertaste and just a sprinkle of salt.
Lotus Root Chips
Another unusual vegetable that the Japanese have turned into chips is lotus root! You’ve probably seen this at the local Asian supermarket, but you’ve never eaten it as a crispy snack. These taste like potato chips, but the unique feature will look much better when served on a plate!
If you’re being a bit adventurous and want to try snacks made of local Japanese vegetables, get with burdock chips. In terms of flavor, these are similar to carrot chips. However, they are less sweet, and the salty taste makes them an excellent snack to accompany your beer.
How to Make Burdock Chips
These days, you can purchase a bag of chips made from various vegetables at supermarkets, but some may not have Burdock Chips. This recipe for homemade Burdock Chips is simple to prepare and delicious.
- 3 x 10cm / 4″ long burdock roots (about 250g)
- a pinch of salt
- Oil for deep frying
- 3 cups water
- 2 tbsp vinegar
- In a mixing bowl, mix the Vinegar Water ingredients.
- If you prefer, after washing the burdock root, scrape off the skin with the back of a knife or scrub the surface using a stainless-steel scourer. Place the peeled roots in a bowl of vinegar water.
- Using a slicer or a peeler, cut the burdock root lengthwise into 1-1.3mm / 1/16″ thick ribbons, one piece at a time. As you make the ribbons, place them back in the vinegar water.
- In a big frying pan, heat your oil to 338°F/170°C. The oil only needs to be deep enough to float the burdock bits (2-3cm / 1″ deep).
- Pat dry your burdock slices using kitchen paper.
- Drop a bunch of the burdock slices into the oil. Separate each burdock piece with tongs or long cooking chopsticks, as some may be stuck together. Repeat with the remaining burdock pieces.
- Cook for around 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, or until the burdock pieces’ edges begin to brown, before transferring to a tray lined with kitchen paper.
- If using, add a pinch of salt while the dish is still hot.
How to Make Lotus Root Chips
Homemade Lotus Root Chips or Renkon Chips are delicious. These fried crispy root vegetable chips will become your favorite type of chips with a sprinkle of Aonori seaweed and a pinch of Himalayan pink salt!
- 1 lotus root (½ lb, 227 g)
- 1 tsp unseasoned rice vinegar (for soaking lotus root)
- 2 cups water (for soaking lotus root)
- 1 cup neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, canola, rice bran, etc.) (for shallow-frying)
- Aonori (dried green laver seaweed)
- Himalayan pink salt
- Rinse the lotus root thoroughly (you can choose not to peel the skin if you prefer). Cut the lotus root into 18 inches (3 mm) or even thinner slices with a mandolin slicer or a sharp knife.
- Make a bowl with 2 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar. Soak the root slices for 5-10 minutes in vinegared water. The vinegar water will turn the lotus root white and prevent it from changing color.
- Rinse and drain thoroughly.
- Pat dry using a paper towel, making sure to get rid of all the moisture.
- Heat the oil over medium-high heat to 340ºF/170ºC. Test it with a slice of lotus root and see if it’s ready. If it immediately comes up, it’s time for deep frying.
- Deep fry the lotus root slices until they are golden brown and crispy.
- After they’ve been nicely fried, drain them on a paper towel or a wired rack to remove the excess oil. Serve immediately after seasoning with Aonori and salt.
Baking in the Oven
- The baked Lotus Chips will not be as crunchy as the deep-fried version, but if you like this method, follow these steps:
- Preheat oven to 350ºF/170ºC. Reduce the cooking temperature by 25ºF/15ºC for a convection oven.
- Place each lotus root slice in a single layer on prepared baking sheets with parchment paper and gently brush both sides with oil.
- Cook for 15-20 minutes, rotating halfway. Cooking time varies according to thickness.
- Remove the slices from the oven when they have turned a nice golden brown.
As you’ve seen, the world of Japanese snacks isn’t just about strangely flavored chocolate bars – you can also find healthy and delicious options. These vegetable-based snacks are also fairly easy to find and buy online, so you don’t have to wait till your next trip to Japan to try them.