Writer: Yumiko Ishimaru
Let me tell you about shojin-ryori (Buddhist Vegetarian Dish) which you might not be familiar with….. shojin ryori is a meal cooked without any seafood or meat. “shojin” means a devotion to pursue the Buddhism, and for a long time, this kind of meal has been prepared for Buddhist monks. By limiting the minimum use of seasoning, you get the most out of the taste and umami from each ingredient. The basic concept of this meal is to use every part of ingredient without wasting any part. To make it simple, this is so called a “Healthy meal”!!
Mentioned in an ancient book, there are 3 minds necessary to cook the shojin ryori.
- A mind that is willing to cook
- A mind that pays great attention when cooking
- A mind that considers a balance of the food calmly when cooking
Having been influenced by ancient China, shojin ryori is prepared by observing the five tastes, five colors and five techniques.
The five tastes are pungency, sweetness, sourness, bitterness and saltiness. The five colors are blue, red, yellow, white and black, and the five preparation techniques are raw, simmer, grill, deep-fry and steam. Combining all these factors and planning well-balanced meals keeps us healthy.
Katsuobushi (bonito flake) which I mentioned in my previous articles, will not be used for shojin ryori. No seafood or chemical seasonings. Only broth from seaweed and shiitake mushroom can be used. Also, the “veggie broth” that are from vegetables and those scraps.
This is a dried veggie broth that you can enjoy the natural taste and nutrients of the vegetables. Roasted savory soy beans are often used as a part of umami in broth with vegetables and scraps.
Definitely not a luxurious kind of soup, but a soup with a dense savory taste that gives you a feeling of warmth. Through such well-prepared cooking, thoughtful attention is filled with a cup of miso soup, which enriches your heart.
Shojin ryori is a traditional dish that was considered as a part of ascetic training, and its methods and techniques has been buildup over the years. Therefore, the spirit to cherish cooking and all the cooking arts are concealed.
In other words, shojin ryori is a meal that is regarded as an OMOTENASHI (Japanese hospitality) and is popular not only among monks but also among many people.
The tour to a temple to experience Zazen (Zen sitting meditation) to empty a mind and to eat shojin ryori is very popular, and it shows high interests in this meal regardless of gender or age.