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Shojin Ryori: Beauty Found in Zen Eating

SNA (Tokyo) — In this fast-paced world everyone wants instant gratification, including in their choice of food. Nowadays you can easily find a convenience store selling fully prepared meals that you can eat right away and probably put in your refrigerator to be re-heated later on. This choice of food is unhealthy, but many will argue that they don’t have enough time to prepare their own food each day. We sometimes forget that eating should bring us peace and energy. This is where the beauty of shojin ryori, or Zen eating, comes in.

Rising to popularity during the 13th century, shojin ryori is a traditional dining style of Buddhist monks in Japan. It is a simple yet sophisticated cuisine served without meat and fish or any other animal product. Healthy and delicious, shojin ryori works quite well for vegans and vegetarians.

Shojin ryori was originally known for being the pathway to enlightenment and the zeal for pursuing a state of mind of freedom from negative thoughts and attachments. It also speaks of devotion to religious discipline in Buddhist temples.

What makes it quite different from other vegetarian cuisine is that nothing is ever wasted when using the shojin ryori method. Every last piece of the ingredient is somehow incorporated into the prepared dish.

Balance is found not just in the flavors, but also in the colors, making it pleasing and appetizing to the eyes as well as the stomach.

An example of shojin ryori is kenchinjiru, a dish originally consumed by Buddhist monks in adherence with their strict vegan diet. Its dashi, or broth, is made with vegetables, including mushrooms, carrots, daikon, edamame, and kelp for flavor. In some parts of Japan, miso or soy sauce is added to better enhance the taste of the broth. Firm, crumbled tofu pieces are added for better texture and to help the soup come together.

Tokyo by Food, a company based in Minami-Aoyama, offers a Shojin Ryori Cooking Class where you can easily understand and learn the art of cooking simple yet delicious vegan / vegetarian cuisine.

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