Zen Cooking For The Soul: The Temple Cuisine of Japan

The food industry is very close to my heart and I have seen it evolve with time. I believe that change is always good and the way this industry has shaped, the positive intent of the hotels and restaurants, the positive attitude of consumers towards experiencing the world cuisine, everything is heartening. I feel fortunate to be part of this wonderful and positive change.

When we are talking about the positive change in the food industry, there is one name which is right on top of the list for me – ITC Hotels. The brand ITC has done a phenomenal job in celebrating and showcasing the different cuisines of India of India and the world. Rich, traditional recipes are perfected by ITC’s Master Chefs - combining a passionate eye for detail with age-old techniques and bringing authenticity to the table of diners.

This time Edo, the award winning Japanese restaurant at ITC Gardenia has done something unimaginable. Chef Kamlesh Joshi has crafted ‘The Temple Cuisine of Japan – Shojin Ryori’ for the diners here in Bengaluru. Shojin Ryori is an exquisite vegetarian cuisine based on the concept of Ahimsa and embodies the long tradition of the Buddhist Spirit in Japan.

Ahimsa or non-violence, a fundamental tenet of Buddhism is practiced by Japanese monks in all walks of life. This is also reflected in their cuisine. It is based on seasonal Japanese ingredients and “Principle of Five”, where a meal is curated using five basic cooking methods, five tastes and five colours.

The instructions for the Zen Cook is and I quote “In preparing food, it is essential to be sincere and to respect each ingredient regardless of how coarse or fine it is.” 

I believe Chef Kamlesh has done a fine job to bring that simplicity and divine experience to us. Speaking to Chef Kamlesh about the simplicity of this cuisine and whether or not this will be accepted by the people here, who have a very different palette, he says – “We had doubts on whether or not we should introduce this cuisine but then we thought - if not now, when? Edo, being a Japanese restaurant, we though this is a fantastic idea and we believe that people would understand the concept and definitely love it.”

Talking about my experience, it was all about savouring the simple, ethereal wholesomeness of Japan’s temple cuisine, feeling the spiritual energy deep within.

We were presented with a large tray containing ten small servings which forms the Shojin Ryori – The food of a Japanese Buddhist Monk. To start with we had Umeboshi, Kappa, Takwan Oshinko (A Plum, Cucumber and Daikon Pickle), followed by Chuka Wakame, sesame marinated with seasweed. Please note that there is no rules for eating in any particular order, the sequence mentioned here is keeping in mind how they proceed with their food.

Moving on we had, Mozuku (Shiragiku Vinegar Marinated Seaweed from Okinawa). As we have appetisers in any meal, here we had a braised freeze dried tofu with sweet miso sauce (Koya tofu Sweet Miso). Next up was Japanese Sea Grapes Soy, Yuzu – This was one of the highlights of the menu, the eye-pleaser that it is will leave you spell bound by its simplicity in taste.

Koya tofu Sweet Miso

Next on the tray was Sweetend fired tofu stuffed with plum infused steamed rice which they call ‘Aburragae Yukari Gohan.’ This was another cracker of a dish.

Aburragae Yukari Gohan

This was followed by Konmbu braised Daikon with Dengaku Miso (Furofoki daikon), Sweet Potato and eggplant Tempura and Grilled shitake and Boletus Mushroom. We concluded with one of the finest clear soups ever – Suimono.

Sweet Potato and eggplant Tempura

Grilled shitake and Boletus Mushroom

The overall experience was just magical, nothing that I have ever had before or nothing that I could compare it with. It is very light and simple food, perfect for lunch that doesn’t take toll on your stomach and makes you sleepy.

This is not be missed. Experience and savour the simple, ethereal wholesomeness of this exquisite cuisine and relive the spirit of Zen cuisine at Edo, ITC Gardenia.

What    :  ‘The Temple Cuisine of Japan – Shojin Ryori’
Where :  Edo, ITC Gardenia
When   :  Till 19th August
Time     :  Lunch only (12.30 PM - 2.45 PM)
Price     :  Three Set menus available at INR 1600, INR 1800 and INR 2000 (Plus taxes)


Dreamer, Blogger, Writer, Foodie, Movie buff, Public Relations. Contributor for The New Indian Express and recently started a news publishing website 'Unkrate'.

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