It seems like all of the wacky-yet-wonderful food creations we hear about out of Japan involve fast food or chocolate—or both, as in the case of these recent chocolate-covered fries.
But the latest food craze out of Japan is decidedly more healthful: salad cakes.
Yes, Vegedeco Salad Café, a shop dedicated to vegetable cakes that look stunningly like their sweet counterparts, opened on Tuesday in the city of Nagoya, about 200 miles west of Tokyo.
It’s the brainchild of Mitsuki Moriyasu, a long-time food stylist and yoga instructor, who aims to make salad “fun to look at” and “fun to eat.” Moriyasa told TODAY.com she first came up with the idea at the French restaurant that she’s been running in town for 30 years.
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The cakes are, indeed, beautiful: From a distance, they look like fluffy, intricately adorned pieces of confectionary art. Get a little closer, though, and you’ll see they’re garnished with radishes, cucumber, tomatoes and herbs.
Cut open the cakes, and there’s a surprise filling of veggies, like shredded carrot and cabbage. Gluten-free, low-carb soy-flour bread, which Moriyasu developed, makes up the base and top of the dessert, and a cream cheese– or tofu-and-vegetable “icing” – holds the whole thing together. The ingredients are completely all-natural, Moriyasu says, “using the vegetables’ lovely color provided by mother Earth.” The cakes go for about 700 to 1,000 yen, or about $6 to $9.
Japan isn’t the first place to discover the joy of savory, healthy-ish cakes, though. In Sweden and Finland, smörgåstårta or voileipäkakku (a.k.a. “sandwich cake”) is considered downright retro: a staple at family get-togethers.
“Everyone has eaten sandwich cake in Sweden, it’s a classic,” says Nina Olsson, a Swedish native and now creative director of the site Nourish Atelier, based in the Netherlands.
The Swedish version is typically made up of layers of bread, prawns or ham, mayo or crème fraiche, and topped with cucumber, but Olsson recently updated the cake, developing a more plant-based, vegan version.
She has all the directions for her Savory Swedish Sandwich Cake on her site, and it’s easy to whip one up at home, layering together sliced bread, hummus or other spreads, and sprouts, cucumber, herbs, seeds and cherry tomatoes, or any veggies you’d like.
“My version has a really fresh taste. It’s got a similar texture to sweet cakes, with its creamy top layer, but it’s all savory and light, with sprouts and crispy green leaves,” Olsson says. “I’m using fresh and raw veggie spreads, so it’s like a eating a cake that’s a sandwich and salad.”
Australian-based blogger Keely Edwards of Gormandize also has a Vegan Smörgåstårta we’re dying to try: It’s made with avocado, tomatoes, radishes, shredded lettuce, and vegan sour cream and cream cheese.
She tells us it’s as delicious as any sandwich or salad: “It’s just a little messier and a lot more fun to eat.”
As for the Vegedeco Café, its opening this week was a success, Moriyasu told TODAY.com: “It was a day with tables full of people's smiles thanks to Vegedeco Salad.”