Shojin Ryori : The Buddhist Diet

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In the Japanese Cuisine, there are different styles, born in periods and for different needs. In this article I will talk about the Shojin Ryori, the kitchen of Buddhist Monks that can be identified as vegetarian / vegan cuisine. The Buddhist Cuisine Shojin-Ryōri, literally means Devotional Cuisine. Practiced by Chinese Buddhist monks in Zen temples during the Song period (960-1296). In the 13th century (the Japanese Kamakura period), the Chinese monks who landed on the shores of Japan, introduced the culture into the territory. Precisely it was the monk Dogen, founder of Buddhism to introduce both religion and Shojin cuisine. It is a very frugal diet, being a kitchen practiced by the monks, a cuisine that balances body, spirit and mind through meditation and prayer.

The Principles of Buddhism and Shojin-Ryōri Cuisine

The fundamental precepts that characterize this kitchen are the Buddhist ones. Most important is the prohibition of “taking life”, as it is sacred. In ancient Buddhist beliefs, consuming meat or fish would tarnish the spirit, thus hindering meditation. For this reason, fish and meat were eliminated, as well as vegetables such as onions and garlic, since the eradication would lead to the death of the plant. This makes it a vegetarian and even vegan cuisine, in case you do not use eggs and milk, which was recently introduced as it is a product obtained from animals without harming them

buddhist philosophy

In Buddhist beliefs, it is believed that all the ingredients used bring harmony to the body and the spirit. The recipes that compose it are simple, but not for this poor in flavor. The meals are prepared according to the rule of 5. That each meal must contain the five flavors we perceive that salty, sweet, sour, bitter and Umami, and 5 colors namely yellow, red, green, black and white. This rule is followed by using the ingredients themselves or by using products derived from them.

Buddhist Philosophy and What do Buddhists Eat

This brings us to another important point: respect for nature, the worn recipes are closely tied to seasonal products and waste are brought to a minimum. Potato skins, for example, are not thrown away, but fried, the leaves of vegetables such as daikon, turnips, carrots etc., they are reused for the preparation of broths and soups.

Vegetables are consumed in broths or soups but also in tempura, always respecting seasonal products, are also used ingredients such as mountain herbs, soy and its derivatives such as tofu, which is eaten fried, or in sheets called abura-age. With soy milk, yuba is obtained by boiling, the konnyaku a tuber that also has other uses besides the kitchen. The dishes are decorated with flowers and leaves. The Broth Dashi is prepared using only with Kombu seaweed or with the combination of shiitake mushrooms.

Kenchinjiru, is a light soup with shitake mushrooms, tubers, tofu and dashi broth, particularly invigorating, perfect for winter days. Other delicacies are the vegetables marinated in miso and fried in tempura. The goma-dofu, tofu with sesame paste accompanied by wasabi or grated fresh ginger and soy sauce. Fried aubergines dressed with miso glaze, called nasu dengaku. Salads such as shiro-ae with tofu and soy and sesame sauce, the namasu prepared with julienne-style vegetables such as daikon. Obviously the dishes are accompanied by white rice.

The basic condiments, that is, mirin, soy sauce, miso, oil and sesame paste and rice vinegar, are used very sparingly, to savor the taste of each ingredient. The protein part of their meals is given by tofu, soy and its derivatives.

Service of the Buddhist Diet

Buddhist Diet

The Shojin Ryori service consists of small dishes like the Kaiseki. With the difference that they will be much less, given that as already said is a frugal cuisine, while the Kaiseki can be identified as a gourmet kitchen. Dishes are served based on the concept “ichi ju san sai“, literally a soup and three dishes with the addition of pickles and the inevitable bowl of white rice. In winter, soups such as carrots or pumpkin and soy milk are served instead of animal milk and cream.

The Shojin Ryori And Tourism

Today many Buddhist temples to support offer tourists, the opportunity to stay in the temples. The precepts are not strictly respected in these cases, but this gives the opportunity to make known their cuisine and their lifestyle, and ensures the continuity of the monastery.

Main Source and photo: Savor Japan

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