There is no doubt: Japanese cuisine has fascinated us for centuries. So far from our culture, it is a kitchen sometimes not very understandable if not told
We got to meet the chef Mari Fujii in Turin, a few days ago, for an event dedicated to cooking Shojin Ryori, the cuisine of Buddhist monks, organized by Japs! Japanese food and Akane Douchi, cook and consultant in Italy for over 15 years now, who deals with cooking classes and recipe making in Modena.
Japanese cuisine is in itself a cuisine considered essential, as many visual arts are essential, including ikebana, bonsai or origami, to name a few.
Shojin Ryori is considered by most to be the quintessence of essentiality, the cuisine of devotion, the cuisine of Buddhist monks, a cure rather than nourishment, care for the body and the soul.
Shojin Ryori is the vegan cuisine of Japanese temples, and was born in the sixth century and then became very popular starting from the thirteenth century, with the ascetic Zen practices: it is based on the concept of nourishing the soul by removing obscure passions.
In Shojin Ryori it is not allowed to use spices and herbs such as garlic, shallots, onion, chives or spring onions, considered foods that awaken sexual appetites. It does not involve the use and consumption of any animal protein, but replaces them with vegetables, vegetables and legumes in large quantities and it seems that, thanks to this philosophy of life and prayer, the profession of Buddhist monk is one of the longest-lived in the world .
Shojin also means avoiding food waste, and the Tenzo, the monk appointed to the kitchen of the monastery, must take care of knowing how to better manage the supplies, minimizing waste and using almost everything that in theory should be considered a waste: the skins of well-washed vegetables, used to prepare funds and vegetable broths , dried to be reduced to powder and preserved to flavor dishes.
Each gesture is designed and built with full respect for nature and its gifts.
The Shojin Ryori kitchen is seasonal: it uses only the best that nature offers in the season suitable for each fruit, to fully enjoy the organoleptic qualities, without using any chemical additives or unnatural seasoning. The only concession is the use of tofu and all soy derivatives.
The menu designed by Mari Fujii for the two dinners held by Japs! is a real sensory journey and unusual flavors, to discover the Shijin Ryori kitchen, divided into five categories: Umami, the Quinto gusto, with miso and tofu, The vegetable world with Le Vinaigrette, summer vegetables and miso vinaigrette a salad of legumes and hazelnut vinaigrette, The taste of the sea, The Algae, with soybean spice, nori seaweed and vegetables in eastern carpione, Flavors of the mountain and the forest (I Funghi) Udea mushrooms, from the prefecture of Agano with rice and a miso soup with dashi mushroom broth and to close A sweet note with La Frutta, Dengaku of fig and lemon peel (with miso bianco), miso sauce that is traditionally used to season grilled aubergines, here paired with figs , for a taste explosion in the mouth. The almond and cherry milk jelly closes the dinner.
We chatted with the chef Mari Fujii, a brief interview to understand a little more about her vision of the Shojin Ryori philosophy.
Is the Shojin Ryori kitchen the secret to a long life?
"One of the historical archives of the monks (but we do not know which one it refers to, ed) says that eating little and above all vegetables helps to stay in shape and last much longer".
Was she already inspired by a vegan / Buddhist diet before she met her husband?
«My husband gave me the opportunity to learn about the kitchen Shojin Ryori being a Tenzo monk in a Zen monastery. I became passionate about this world, this spiritual practice and I made it my own over the years and now I teach it to those who want to approach the Shojin Ryori cuisine .
What is your favorite ingredient?
«I really love vegetables, all of them are eggplant and Daikon, due to its great versatility in the kitchen, as nothing is thrown away, I use every single part: from salad leaves, skins to make broths and root, cooked or raw, is really delicious .
What would you recommend to anyone wishing to start this journey, approaching the Shojin Ryori kitchen?
"I recommend learning from the basics, studying all the broths, from those prepared with Kombu seaweed to dried mushrooms, because broths are the base, the most important of all dishes."
In Italy the food trend is moving towards a more vegetal, vegan cuisine, a sign of changing times. Buddhist cuisine in Japan to what extent has it arrived? Do young people like this kind of food philosophy?
«Around the world there has been the fashion of macrobiotic cuisine, not only in Japan. Then the interest has shifted, over the years, to the Shojin Ryori kitchen which is much older than the macrobiotic one. The people who attend my courses come to learn this cuisine, the SR philosophy and Zen Buddhism, that many do not know, also because they started eating at a young age with junk food and are 35/40 years old with enough food problems important. Today's young people love meditation, mindfulness, having time to dedicate to their health, to the body, but also to the spirit. The most important thing is to apply the rules of the Shojin Ryori kitchen, and for them it seems to be the right solution ".
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