While most Honolulu locals shop for their fresh local produce, tourists flock to farmers markets for the prepared foods-of which few are vegan-friendly, and a lot are plain unhealthy: Fried this, or fried that!? Even the T-shirts sold by the Hawaii Farm Bureau are adorned with pigs–signifying the ubiquity of meat and other animal products.
Until the day when there are Vegan Farmers Markets, fortunately there is Daizu-Tei, specializing in acai bowl, kim-chi, and natto using vegan, local, and organic ingredients. Owner Kaori Yoshioka must be doing something special, judging from the long lines at her stand at the Kapiolani Community College (KCC) Saturday morning market (7:30am-11:00am).
“Daizu” is the Japanese word for soybean, and Kaori uses locally-grown organic soybeans in her acai bowl (for soymilk) and natto.
Kaori’s food business was born out of her natural desire to make healthy food for her family. Eating out is so unhealthy,” she says, “because you cannot trust the ingredients.”
On the other hand, Kaori’s products contain only the highest quality ingredients, flavored delicately. “Our Acai bowl is not as sweet as others,” Kaori says, “because we don’t mix honey in the Acai like others do. My customers love coming to our shop because it’s not too sweet.”
She says while tourists come for her acai bowl, many locals buy her natto and kim-chi.
Kaori explains how she began selling natto, the pungent-smelling and viscous fermented soybean that is typically either loved or hated: “I had been making natto for myself for a long time,” she says. “After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a friend asked me to make it locally because she was worried about where Japanese natto comes from.”
These days, Kaori can’t make enough natto to keep up with demand. “Once people try my natto, they cannot go back to another,” she says, apologizing that she sells out every week.
In case customers aren’t accustomed to eating natto, Kaori offers recipe suggestions including natto fried rice, natto omelet, with aojiso, or kim-chi with natto.
Kaori makes kim-chi from scratch, too: “I loved to eat kim-chi but store-bought kim-chi contains MSG, chemical salt, shrimp, squid, oysters, etc. I just like clean fresh taste with no chemicals in it,” she says. “I use really good ingredients including expensive sea salt, and I wouldn’t dream of using cheap ingredients. My customers are worth it.” And, unlike most kim-chi, Kaori’s kim-chi contains no soy sauce and is gluten-free.
Kaori’s business partner is a farmer who used to run “Soy to the World,” a organic Tofu factory located in Manoa. Recently he began farming other fruits and vegetables like strawberries and kale. “In addition to starting to sell soy yogurt and tofu in the near future,” she says “we also plan to bring in a machine to make soy soft cream with local ingredients.”
Kaori and her sister used to sell okonomiyake and croquet—taking part in Wednesday Farmers’ Markets as well—until her sister (the ‘real’ chef) returned to Japan. Kaori is pleased to announce that she recently began selling the the popular okonomake again, on a pre-order basis.
Despite cutting back her menu and Farmers’ Market appearances, Kaori keeps busy during the week preparing food for her customers, some of whom order her products in bulk.
Kaori first came to Oahu from Kobe, Japan, on a 4-day tour 20 years ago, and immediately felt at home here. ‘This is where I want to live,’ I told myself. “I love Hawaii.”
So, next time you’re at KCC Famers Market, be sure stop by Daizu-Tei for a taste of some vegan Aloha! And let’s tell the Hawaii Farm Bureau that “farms” are places for growing vegetables and fruits, not raising animals for food!! Ask other food vendors to add more vegan options, too!