|Campus staff visited Sanglokwon’s vegetarian restaurant "OurHome."|
/ Photograph by Kim Ji-yeon
Sanglokwon’s vegetarian restaurant OurHome features temple fare, a special kind of cuisine that monks make in temples. Temple fare recipes are unique because they were developed to help monks’ Buddhist practice. Diverse people – Korean students, non-Korean students, monks, campus staff, citizens, and travelers – are showing satisfaction toward what OurHome provides. “I did not know that eating such delicious dishes without feeling stuffed was possible,” said Lee A-hyeon, a junior majoring in Mass Communication and Journalism. Oh Gyeong-eun, a visiting student from Seoul National University, said, “OurHome is amazing because it provides various dishes that are made solely with vegetables.” Despite the comparatively high cost of 7,000 won, the number of customers tripled compared to last year. According to the restaurant, an average of more than 200 visitors have their lunch in OurHome everyday. “Our decision to include temple fare in the menu has really paid off,” commented You Jae-chun, the section chief of business at OurHome.
Buddhism regards eating temple fare as a part of Buddhist practice
The main reason OurHome decided to bring a change was the lack of customers. From 2011, OurHome’s loss was constant, and eventually the corporation that was managing the restaurant decided to stop operating it. As a result, the Dongguk University Cooperative took over the management of the restaurant and began searching for the ways to turn the situation around. What OurHome decided to do was to shift its viewpoint. You Jae-chun said that it was necessary to introduce new recipes that would induce customers to come. In order to do so, the recipes needed to be well-balanced and delicious as well, despite the strictly vegetarian range of ingredients. In the process, they researched other temple food restaurants in South Korea. Also, the following three factors have laed to the restaurant’s success; Dongguk University’s status as a Buddhist university, the campus location in Nam mountain where tourists visit, and the help from the Temple Fare Research Institute at Dongguk University. There are 12 menu items at OurHome. The resident nutritionists started to take a temple fare education course from this year. The future plans for OurHome include introducing more professional temple food as a main dish once a month and holding a temple fare exhibition.
What is the concept of temple fare? In Buddhism, there are three categories in food; normal food, natural/vegetable food and temple food. First of all, normal food is what people usually eat. Natural/vegetable food is the food with the least amount of necessary nutrients which is just enough to keep people alive. Lastly, temple food, or temple fare, is the one without any pungent ingredients. It is a subdivision of natural/vegetable food, also the food that keeps a person’s spirit alive and clear. In Korean, it is called seonsik, meaning the food that gives enlightenment. Therefore, monks eat temple fare to supplement their spirit, which is needed when trying to clear the mind. In Buddhism, eating temple fare is a part of Buddhist practice.
Temple food cannot be explained from its ingredients alone, though. Temple fare can also be understood through its special features or rules. The first special feature of temple fare is “stillness.” When people consume temple fare, they gain energy through the inside the body, not outside. The foods that give energy to be expended outside are fish, meats, five spicy vegetables, and instant-food. Those are called “movement food.” If people have a meal with movement food, people become energetic, violent, anxious, and agitated.
There are diverse temple dishes which have been developed to satisfy the tastes of modern people. Bellflower rice vegetable skewers, taro soup, majjim, pumkin kimchi (from top left to right) are some of the seasonal temple dishes.
/ Extracted from Google
There are some typical rules in temple fare such as not eating restricted food.” The first type of prohibited food is animal products, except dairy products such as milk and cheese. In a Buddhism scripture, there is a saying, “Since our parents and siblings are given bodies as animals during samsara, how could we eat them?” Accordingly, animals are regarded as equally important beings as humans, not just an ingredient.The second rule is the prohibition on consuming five spices, which are herbs with five different spicy tastes sand colors. These are green onion, garlic, wild rocambol, chives, and Chinese squill. In South Korea, an onion is restricted instead of Chinese squill. Consuming these are regarded as greed in Buddhism. Monks thought that these five vegetables cause them to lose focus due to their pungency. They also believe that the five spices will cause their luck and virtues to disappear since the foods bring monsters and goblins. In the Buddhist scripture, Shurangama Sutra, there is a verse that says, “If you eat the cooked five spicy vegetables you will get the mind of lewdness, and if you eat them raw, your heart of rage will increase.” Temples use tangle, green perilla, mill leaf, cinnamon frost, and mushrooms instead to bring out the flavor. Being clean and harmonious, preserving the flavor and smell of nature, and keeping to the recipe; these are the ideals of temple fare.
There is a representative temple fare dish for each season. For this month, people can try seasoned spring greens such as mugwort and dandalieon herb. Dandelion herb is a representative spring herb, which is good for lowering fever and removing infection, and is said to be a diuretic. Also, since its bitterness is helpful for curing gastritis and strengthening heart, it has been used as medicine for hundreds of years. People can try it easily because making a dandelion herb seasoning is not any different from other herb seasonings. There are two ways to season dandelion. First, the only necessary ingredients are gochujang (red pepper paste), vinegar, mustard sauce and sugar. Alternatively, people can cook it with only doenjang (soybean paste), sesame oil and sesame salt.
Temple fare has a history of over 1,700 years, and it is not just a type of food, but also a culture. OurHome has begun introducing Donggukians various temple dishes. The Temple Fare Research Institute at Dongguk University is trying hard to create a food culture that everyone can enjoy and be comfortable with. How about trying these dishes for a fresher and healthier spring?
< Making seasoned dandelion >
1. Remove the root of the dandelions and wash them with water.
2. Parboil dandelion herbs in boiling salt water.
3. Choose between gochujang (red pepper paste) and doenjang (soybean paste).
4. With few drops of sesame oil, mix them together.
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