Monday, February 14, 2011

Japanese Vegetarian Buddhist Dining

Daichi Okayasu, Yomiuri Shimbun (Buddhist Channel)

Sankõ temple, Hadano, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan (James Kemlo/

TOKYO, Japan - Shojin-ryori -- a type of vegetarian cuisine that came over from China with early Buddhist monks -- is winning new fans for its simple but refined flavors and perceived healthfulness.

The food is now available at an increasing number of restaurants and even some Buddhist temples, where shojin-ryori is the traditional food of priests.

Sankoin -- a nunnery in Koganei, Tokyo -- is one temple that offers shojin-ryori lunches.

Located in a quiet residential area a 10-minute walk from JR Musashi Koganei Station, the temple serves its lunch in a large hall. The meal starts with a monaka, or anko-filled wafer, with a bowl of tea, followed by boiled vegetables, steamed turnip, sesame-flavored tofu, and soup. The dishes are all very simple but prepared with great care.

"Shojin-ryori dishes that are cooked to make the most of the ingredients, retaining their color and flavor as well as to be visually attractive, are very healthy," head nun Koei Hoshino said.

"A shojin-ryori meal tends to feature five colors -- red, white, black, green and yellow -- and achieves a perfect nutritional balance," she added.

Boiled vegetables are the staple ingredient of shojin-ryori dishes. Burdock is boiled for three hours, becoming so tender it almost melts in the mouth. Koyadofu, frozen and dried tofu, is flavored only with sugar and salt. Yam and wasabi are rolled in dried seaweed. More>>

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