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Shōjin-ryōri: Buddhist monks’ cuisine inspires the greatest chefs

Fabio Bonavita

By Fabio Bonavita29 janvier 2021

Shōjin-ryōri, the cuisine of the Buddhist temples, originated in Kyoto in the 13th century. More recent days have seen this vegetable dish-based cuisine becoming a major influence on great Michelin-starred chefs, starting with Alain Ducasse.

In 2021, the origins of Shōjin-ryōri are still debated. Some historians believe that this traditional cuisine arrived in Japan with Chinese Zen monks in the 13th century. Others are convinced that it is rooted in the teachings of Buddha Siddhartha Gautama, who was born in Nepal in 563 BC, and that it arose around 675 in the Japanese archipelago. All, however, agree on one point: it was in the temples of Kyoto that it finally gained its footing. Its Buddhist origins explain the prohibition on killing a sentient creature for food. This cuisine therefore uses no products of animal origin. But some vegetables are also banned – like garlic, onion and scallions. Every meal must combine five flavors (sour, bitter, sweet, spicy and salty) and five colors (green, red, yellow, white and black).

Shōjin-ryōri aims to promote the balance and alignment of body and mind. (DR)

Accompanying the meditation

These rigid precepts are explained by the original mission of Shōjin-ryōri: to accompany the monks' meditation and to promote the balance and alignment of body and mind.

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