When people say Japanese cuisine, fish (often sushi) is what you think of.
Funny aside, literally every single person that I’ve asked “What food comes to mind when I say British cuisine?” has answered either “bad-tasting food” (lol) or “fish and chips” – which is made even funnier with fish and chips in Japanese being フィシュアンドチップス (“fishu-ando-chippusu”) which is always a riot to say.
Aaaaanyway, so for one whole sect of Buddhism in which eating anything animal-based food is forbidden (essentially vegan). A wholly different cuisine exists – Shojin Ryōri (精進料理), or literally: “Vegetarian Cuisine”, “Diligence Cuisine”, “Ascetic Cuisine” depending on how you want to translate it.
Now, I say ‘wholly different’ but really, it’s quite similar to standard Japanese cuisine with substitutions, the trickiest usually being how to replace the stock used in soups and noodle dishes which is 99.9% of the time either made from pork bones or dried fish.
Kyoto being absolutely jam-packed full of buddhist temples has an abundance of restaurants that serve Shojin Ryōri, everything from quick bites to fancy multi-course meals at buddhist temples.
I opted for more toward the former, and chose a cafe that’s a 5-min walk from my apartment, which is incidentally just down the road…
…from a really cool temple
So, clockwise, starting with rice on the bottom left we have:
- Rice cooked with adzuki beans
- Okra, sesame and noodle salad
- Sweetened mashed potato
- Spring roll
- Miso soup
- Chocolate mousse
- and in the middle, typical Japanese pickles – Tsukemono (漬物) and shirataki noodle salad
The miso soup was particularly good – it wasn’t a seaweed base, and I still can’t quite work out what the base was, but it was delicious.
The mashed potato and the chocolate mousse were both pretty bleh.
Overall, pretty tasty, whilst not ‘better than eating meat’ tasty, still worth a try.
(oh yeah, I was originally going to write like 1 paragraph about this and then write about another shrine I visited, but I ended up blabbing-on, hence why this post is a little light on the photos – more next time!)