Korea’s Buddhist Temple Food Comes to Turin

18 Sep 2014

This year, the Korean delegation at Salone del Gusto will present something a little different, giving visitors a chance to participate in a culinary experience celebrating the unique cuisine of Korean Buddhist monks through a dedicated 100-square-meter space.


Temple food is the everyday food eaten in Buddhist temples. Here, monks and nuns cultivate, prepare and eat often in the same way they have for 1700 years. Temple food became a national mainstay during the 4th century, when Buddhism first spread to Korea from China. Many vegetable dishes found in modern Korean food can be traced back to this history.


Today, this food is often seen as the basis of a nutritious and well-balanced style of cooking: a vegan diet, which uses only organic ingredients and no processed products. The food is minimally cooked, lightly seasoned and served in moderate quantities. Not only is it healthy, it is also said to satisfy a spiritual craving. When Buddhist monks and nuns eat, they feel thankful for all the labor and devotion involved in the preparation of their food, and will not waste even a single grain of rice. To showcase the uniqueness of different dishes, handpicked ingredients will travel with the Korean Buddhist monks to Turin to be used in their dishes.


So what should visitors to the temple expect?


Preserved foods: One of the characteristics of Korean temple food is preservation in order to eat foods even out of season. Having four distinct seasons, Korea has developed many preserved food recipes such as kimchi, doinjang (soybean paste), gochujang (red pepper paste), ganjang (soy sauce), jangajji (pickled vegetables), chojeorim (vinegar-pickled vegetables), sogumjeorim (salt-pickled vegetables) and jangjeorim (pickled vegetables in pot). These recipes enable foods to be preserved for a long time without losing the supplemental nutrients necessary in a vegetarian diet.


Fermented foods: Korean temples also have various recipes for preparing fermented food. Fermentation is a chemical change caused by bacteria-produced enzymes. Just like cheese, yogurt and wine in the west, zymotechnics is used for making kimchi, doinjang, gochujang, ganjang and shikye (a sweet rice drink) in Korea. Fermented foods are said to have enriched flavors and medicinal benefits.


Natural seasonings: The usual seasoning includes ground mushrooms, kelp, sesame and raw beans.


What you won’t find however is onions. Temple food never uses any vegetables from the onion family. It is said that consuming cooked food of the onion family will increase lust, while eating raw food will increase anger.


In addition to the cooking demonstrations at Salone, monks from Korea will perform “BaruGongyang”, a formal monastic meal which is eaten in silence during meditation and offers respect to the foods and the people who prepared them. Representatives will be available to answer questions and photos and videos will help attendees better understand the uniqueness of these temples, nestled deep in the mountains of Korea.



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