THE DIVINE TASTE OF TEMPLE FOOD
Date: Aug 13, 2017
Source: Bangalore Mirror By Shivani Kagti
Shojin ryori (Shoujin Ryouri) or the vegan cuisine of Zen Buddhist monks in Japan makes for a meal that is a combination of simple processes and surprising flavors
If you look up the phrase shojin ryori online, the most simplistic translation would be vegetarian food. Typically, the term refers to traditional Buddhist cuisine that spread from China in the 6th century. Described as “devotional cooking” or “Zen Buddhist temple food” by various sources, it is generally associated with the vegan food cooked by Buddhist monks across Japanese temples.
Edo Restaurant & Bar – ITC Gardenia
Not surprisingly, food cooked in this style is a reflection of the disciplined and meditative lifestyle of the monks. For instance, it is largely driven by the idea of eating local and seasonal – as one travelogue puts it, “one should be able to recognise the season by eating it.” Similar to Sattvic cooking, they avoid pungent ingredients such as onion, garlic, leeks, etc. Since it’s based on the principle of ahimsa, the monks don’t cook non-vegetarian food as well as dairy products. The latter could also be due to the predominance of soya milk and soya products such as tofu in Japanese cuisine as opposed to dairy-based foods.
Seated at ITC Gardenia’s Japanese restaurant, Edo, we are presented with a tray containing about 10 tiny platters laden with small portions of food ranging from varieties of seaweed and mushrooms to tofu. As Kamlesh Joshi, assistant master chef at Edo, comes out to talk to us about his rather artistic creation, we learn that there’s more to this beautiful platter than meets the eye. Take, for instance, the vibrant colours that pop up at you. “According to shijon ryori, there should be five different colours on your plate,” Joshi says. Similarly, each meal must include the five cooking methods – boiling, frying, simmering, roasting as well as a raw ingredient.