To many of us living in the west, the word ‘Shojin Ryori’ is not typically something we’ve heard before. ‘Shojin Ryori’, meaning devotion cuisine in Japanese, is a type of Buddhist cuisine that is many centuries old, and can be found in not only in Japan, but throughout Asia too. Consumed by monks and some followers of Buddhism, Shojin Ryori is most commonly understood as being vegan or vegetarian, but there are far deeper reasons behind the choice of ingredients used in Shojin Ryori.
Simplicity and Sincerity: The Ingredients in Shojin Ryori
When it comes to food, the fundamental Buddhist belief is ahimsa, or non-violence. Teachings prohibit the consumption of the meat of sentient beings, making Shojin Ryori effectively vegetarian, though there may be exceptions depending on Buddhist sects.
Other ingredients that won’t be found in Shojin Ryori are the 5 spices, which are strong-tasting herbs and plants that tend to excite the senses and cloud other flavors. Most of these include our common cooking must-haves, such as shallots, leek, and garlic.
Beyond using prohibited ingredients, the most important thing to bear in mind when preparing and eating Shojin Ryori, is that to do so with respect and sincerity. When cooking, one pays the utmost attention to the wholesomeness and flavor of each ingredient without compromising its innate qualities. As a result, the ingredients in a typical Shojin Ryori dish are minimally processed ingredients that include rice, root vegetables, beans, and soy products like tofu, and when eating, you should be able to savor the original taste of each ingredient.
Our Shojin Ryori
In Japan, Shojin Ryori is often served in temples to monks and other disciples. In pursuit of her study of Shojin Ryori, our expert Kana Palumbo, has travelled throughout Japan and learned the principles and preparations of Shojin Ryori from true practitioners.
Kana has put together a Shojin Appetizer Plate, especially for ‘Risshun’, the first day of Spring (February 3rd). The plate will feature soybeans, which in Japan, are typically consumed around this period, as they are believed to expel misfortune.
Stewed Beans (Soybeans, carrot, konbu, shiitake mushroom, Japanese radish)
Cooked in a mild Shojin dashi stock
Lotus Root Mochi (Lotus root, corn starch, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, ginger)
A winter vegetable, lotus root is believed to be great for the respiratory system, while ginger warms the body during the cold seasons.
Taro in Yuzu Miso
A must-have in the colder months of the year, Yuzu gives a distinct fragrance of Japan. Enjoy the refreshing citrusy notes of Yuzu along with the earthy, body-warming miso.
Some might think of Shojin Ryori as simply food restrictions, or an easy way to eat vegetarian or vegan, but it truly goes far beyond that. With Shojin Ryori, we consume food with mindfulness, savoring the ingredients that nourish our bodies. It’s a philosophy that can benefit us all, and no matter what your diet consists of, perhaps the most important thing we can take away from Shojin Ryori is to appreciate our food and to treat it with the respect it deserves.