Respecting Food and Where It Comes From
Food is a fuel source for our bodies and minds. Not only does it give us the energy we need to get through our lives but it provides us with the nourishment to grow and sustain ourselves.
Without it, both our bodies and minds would become exhausted, starved and diminished. Buddhist cuisine is a distinct sub-style of food that emerged within the Buddhist monasteries which traditionally prohibits any and all animal meats.
The reason being is that they follow a no killing rule of any sentient being nor the use of any animal products which includes feathers, milk and leather. In addition to this, alcohol and other intoxicants are forbidden because they may result in the violations of others. Essentially, as a Buddhist it is important to think about where the food has come from, whether you are worthy of consuming it and how the food should be eaten. Food is eaten with the purpose of realizing the way, reaching enlightenment and keeping our bodies healed.
Buddhist Cuisine History
Buddhist cuisine is an East Asian cuisine that was founded around 500 BCE by a Nepalese prince. The prince was to become a king however he wanted to achieve enlightenment so he escaped his palace and wandered throughout India meditating.
When he succeeded with his meditation underneath the sacred fig tree, he then began to teach his disciples about dharma which is the underlying order of nature, life and the cosmos. His teachings heavily influenced India and many subcontinents around it but was heavily campaigned against by the Hindu Brahmins as they did not like that his teachings negated the caste system.
By the 12th Century CE it was almost entirely driven out of India. However, Buddhism has survived in many countries outside of India including: China, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Taiwan and Cambodia. Overall, there are three major branches of Buddhism which include Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana.
The Theravada are mendicants who depend on others for their sustenance but must not eat any meat given to them if they were aware of how the beast was slaughtered or were aware that it was specifically prepared for them.
The Mahayana had plenty of land to prepare their own food and lived a strict vegetarian diet in accordance with the no killing rule.
Finally, the Vajrayana will eat meat as they do not attempt to avoid it, as they may not have the luxury of veganism due to their year-round agriculture.
Buddhist Cuisine Menu
• Banana bread,
• Fruit salad,
• Steamed stuffed bitter melon,
• Braised tofu,
• Cabbage wrap,
• Cauliflower in red sauce,
• Eggplant French toast
• Bean curd wrap
• Papaya Bowl
• Tomatoes and lama beans,
• Tofu miso soup,
• Napa cabbage wraps,
• Sesame bamboo mushroom soup,
• Vegetable stir fry,
• Cucumber veggie chicken cold dish,
• Chinese spinach,
• Pineapple with vege meat chunks,
• Seaweed cheese roll,
• Vegetable melody,
• Gobo cashew soup,
• Basil tofu stir fry,
• Agar Salad,
• Pineapple Salad
• Goji Nagaimo Roots
• Winter melon soup.
• Stuffed tofu.
• Yam noodle salads.
• Miso mash.
• Tomato cabbage,
• Baked vegetables in cream sauce,
• Fried tofu stir fry,
• Curry cauliflower,
• Chestnut pumpkin,
• Fried sesame tofu,
• Vegetarian chicken ball soup,
• Sweet and sour mushrooms,
• Coconut curry stir fry,
• Broccoli baked in cream sauce,
• Steamed tofu with black bean sauce,
• Roaster oyster mushrooms.
Traditional Buddhists don’t eat after mid-day, so if they were to have snacks it would either consist of fruit or of tea as neither are prohibited after meal time. However, non-traditional Buddhists may not follow this as it is dependent on what branch of Buddhism they are a part of.
• Cakes of any kind,
• Sweet breads,
• Coconut puddings,
• Chocolate cashew caramel,
• Vegar chocolate cake,
• Coconut cookies.
• No bake Samoa bites,
• Coconut apple tarts,
• Goat milk yogurt with fruit,
• Chia seed pudding,
• Banana ice cream.
• Chia seed lemonade,
• Rhubarb-lemon mint iced tea,
• Ginger lemonade,
Traditional Buddhist Christmas may include any of the following:
• Vegetarian stir fry’s,
• Baked vegetables with sauces,
• Wheat meat,
• Braised tofu,
• Any type of fruit dessert,
• Wheat Meat,
• Stir Fry’s,
Most Popular Dishes
• Buddha’s Delight (Vegetable Dish),
• Bean curd wrap,
• Baked broccoli in cream sauce,
• Fried tofu,
• Gobo cashew soup.
Most Used Ingredients:
Meats/Fish: traditional Buddhists do not eat any type of meat or animal products. If, however, you are a part of the Vajrayana, then any type of meat including: fish (cod, salmon, tuna, halibut, haddock, etc.) will be eaten as well as: beef, fowl, pork, etc.
Vegetables: Brussel sprouts, broccoli, legumes, cabbage, celery, tomatoes, beans, mushrooms, eggplants, cauliflower, seaweed, cucumber, pumpkin, squash, peppers, nagaimo root.
Fruits: Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, pears, peaches, raspberries, apples, melon, bananas, raisins, watermelon, pineapple, grapes, plums, apricots, goji berries, lemons, avocado, papaya
Other: Rice, bread, curry spiced dishes, pasta, wheat meat, tofu, cinnamon, maple syrup, almonds, wheat flour, oat milk, pecans, apple sauce, herbs, salt, baking powder, soy sauce, peanut butter, ketchup, brown sugar, peanuts, walnuts.
Seasonings: White pepper, BBQ sauce, mushroom oyster sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, tomato ketchup, sweet flour sauce chili sauce, soy bean sauce, black vinegar, sesame oil.
The above is not a full representation but does represent a relative traditional Buddhist ingredient list.
Travelling Foodies: What to Eat When You Travel to Buddhist Communities
If you are looking to travel to a Buddhist monastery or are looking to experience a different type of diet, then eating dishes that are primarily made out of either vegetables, fruits or wheat meat is the way to go. One dish in particular called Buddha’s delight is a popular well known dish that consists of vegetables in a soy sauce based liquid. Vegetables may include black mushrooms, bamboo fungus, lotus seeds, ginkgo nuts, snow peas and water chestnuts. Other dishes that you may want to try are: stuffed cabbage, chia seed pudding and tofu miso soup.
Are you Buddhist? Maybe you visited Buddhist countries? Please feel free to comment and add your own thoughts on Buddhist ethnic food.