Japan can be a tricky place to be vegan. That said, there are some lesser-known albeit readily available products that can help.

Akin to American custard pudding, purin is one of Japan’s most beloved dishes. It’s usually creamy, eggy, definitely not vegan and only sometimes vegetarian. Without laborious baking, however, we can make traditional caramel and a plant-based custard with seaweed extract as a secondary setting agent. It’s subtly perfumed to suit those who find this time of year otherwise overly pumpkin spiced.

Agar, sometimes described as vegetarian gelatin, is not only a versatile substitute. Made of tengusa (red algae) and a type of seaweed called ogonori, there’s a direct link to Japan as well. Agar is widely used in wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) such as colorful kanten (fruit jellies) or to make summer tokoroten noodles.