Culinary experts across the globe are quite enthusiastic when it comes to “Shojin Ryori”.
Shojin Ryori, mostly implies their vegetarian cooking style. It’s the abundant availability of both wild and cultivated vegetables in Japan that led to the emergence of such a culinary style. It started during the 13th century, when Zen Buddhism, a kind of Buddhist practice started in Japan.
A typical Shojin Ryori meal consists of a soup, and three dishes, together called as ichi ju san sai. Soy, tofu, kozu – are common ingredients in a Shojin Ryori meal, usually complimented with pickles of various kinds.
During the training span of a Buddhist monk in Japan, experting in Shojin Ryori culinary form is important. Some of its dishes require elaborate preparation time with dedicated efforts. One example would be sesame paste, a popular dish that needs long hours of grinding in a pestle and mortar.
Speciality of Shojin Ryori cuisine includes, there happens to be no waste during production of this food. Every spread necessarily has a balance of five flavours and colours that completes its composition. Use of garlic, onion, meat, fish, insects and other pungent flavours is completely abstained in Shojin Ryori.
Shojin Ryori menu is also very much based on nature. Buddhists consider seasonal agricultural products as flow of nature and thus, incorporate them in their plates. During spring, emphasis is led on new sprouts that come up; in summer it’s the green leaves that are preferable; during autumn, it’s more of fruits and nuts while in winter, root veggies and fruits are the main ingredients.
Before the consumption of a Shojin Ryori spread in a Zen Temple, five principles or prayers are chanted which includes: Reflect on the effort that brings us this food; Reflect on our imperfections as we receive the meal; Reflect on mindfulness to be free from attachment, anger and ignorance; Reflect on taking this food as a medicine to sustain good health and Reflect on the fulfilment of our practice as we accept the offerings.
Authors and bloggers have already made ample research on this culinary style and produced elaborate thesis on it. Among them, “Shojin Ryori: The Art of Japanese Vegetarian Cuisine” by Danny Chu is one of the best work to know more about this special culinary style developed by Zen Buddhist monks of Japan.