Dec 11,2018 Vegan Buddhist Cuisine – Have you ever come across fucha ryori ?
Sushi and tempura are signature dishes that represent Japan. Teppanyaki cuisine and ramen are familiar to many people. Many guests from overseas recognise the word matcha green tea these days thanks to a world-famous coffee chain including it on its menu. Kaiseki (a traditional Japanese course meal with its origins in the tea ceremony) seems to never lose its popularity with travellers who love to enjoy this style of Japanese cuisine.
How about shojin ryori? Though some may have encountered this cuisine on a trip to the increasingly popular Mt Koya, there are still only few people who know about shojin ryori, vegan Japanese Buddhist cuisine. Shojin ryori is cooked in accordance to the commandments of Buddhism. Among these commandments, not killing living beings is extremely important. Along with respecting the dignity of life, Buddhists believe that living a simple life detached from worldly desires will lead them to better things. These beliefs mean that shojin ryori meals include no meat, fish or animal products.
There are four main types of shojin ryori. Fucha ryori is one of them. It originated in Obaku Sect, and was brought to Japan from China by the monk Ingen. When Buddhist ceremonies were conducted, food offerings for the Buddhist altar would be cooked, and both monks and attendees would share a meal together. This is how fucha ryori was born. Primary features of fucha ryori are the frequent use of arrowroot starch, called kuzu in Japanese, and plant-based oils. The most important thing in this style of cuisine is enjoying your meal, sharing the experience with other people.
Among the Buddhist temples that offer fucha ryori, KANGA-AN Temple stands out because the female abbot’s hospitality is well-reflected in the beautiful presentation of the food. Only an eleven minute subway ride on the Karasuma line from Kyoto Station, it is located in a quiet residential area. Established in 1671 as a temple with close ties to the Kyoto imperial palace and enshrining an imperial fortune teller, the name KANGA-AN was received from the Grand Emperor Gomizunoo.
A portrait of the female abbot of the temple welcomes guests in the entranceway.
An arrangement which gives the feeling of a small garden.
Goma-dofu (sesame tofu) is actually not tofu as soybeans are not used. Instead, Kuzu (powdered arrowroots rich in starch) is used. Kuzu itselfdoesn’t have any flavour, the flavour of goma-dofu is achieved by using crushed sesame seeds. Soft, with a melt in your mouth texture, it has a rich creamy tahini-like flavour. It goes amazingly well with wasabi.
Green chestnuts? No, it’s actually fried green tea soba noodles stuck into a sweet potato filling.
Not being able to eat meat and fish led the monks to come up with creative solutions to reconstructing the taste and flavour those foods. This imitation technique is a common feature to shojin ryori and with fucha ryori has evolved into a wonderfully aesthetic presentation of food.
Yuba with an arrowroot starch based soup. Yuba is a by-product of the tofu making process. When tofu is being made, a fine skin (yuba) is formed on the surface of the coagulating soymilk. Yuba is one food that is well-represented in Kyoto cuisine. Of course, bonito (a fish), indispensable to making most Japanese-style broth, is not used for any shojin ryori.
Despite being in the middle of a residential area, you get the sense of being detached from daily life as you wander around. The temple and restaurant are surrounded by a beautifully peaceful garden. It’s easy to lose track of time while dining here.
Vegans would definitely find fucha ryori enjoyable.. Given the philosophy of respecting living creatures, Vegan beliefs and shojin ryori are a good match. One should keep in mind, however, that shojin ryori has its roots in the Buddhist religion, and we should appreciate the food as an expression of these underlying ideals.
Here’s 5 things you should keep in mind when you have shojin ryori:
• Appreciate how much effort was made for the food to come to the table, and appreciate the people who made the meal.
• Reflect on your deeds, to assess if you are worthy of eating the food.
• Don’t eat too much. Be humble and content with what you have.
• Regard food as medicine necessary to maintain physical and mental health.
• Eat the meal as part of a path to refining yourself.
Aside from eating shojin ryori as part of Buddhist ceremonies, people also eat it as part of more informal gatherings. Shojin ryori is part of Buddhist practice, yet it is open to anyone, for any occasion. Keeping the above 5 things in mind, please enjoy your meal!
The complex is illuminated after dark, filled with a tranquil and solemn ambience. A bar, open in the evening, is also on site.
●KANGA-AN Temple, part of OBAKU Sect
TEL : 075-256-2480
ADDRESS : 278, to the east of the intersection of Karasuma Street and Kuramaguchi street, Kita-Ku, Kyoto-City
OPEN : Lunch 12pm–3pm (last check-in time is 1 pm)
Dinner 5pm–9pm (last check-in time is 7pm)
Bar 5pm-11pm (last check-in time is 10:30pm)
SMOKING : No
CLOSED : Open every day
PRICE : Lunch one course : ¥5,940
Dinner three courses : ¥9,510/¥11,880/¥17,820
Bar Admission charge : 1,000 yen
Drink 1,000 yen
8% consumption tax and 10% service charge are included in above prices
English menu available
Credit cards accepted
Reservation required. Reservations need to be made by phone two days prior to the date you would like to book, in Japanese only.
In case of cancellation on the day, 50% of the price of the meal will be charged regardless of reason.