|Buddhist Vegetarian Cuisine|
|A vegetarian restaurant in Taipei, Taiwan serving Buddhist cuisine in buffet style|
|Vietnamese alphabet||đồ chay|
Buddhist cuisine is an East Asian cuisine which is followed by some believers of Buddhism. It is primarily vegetarian, a manifestation of the general Buddhist precept of ahimsa (non-violence). Parts of Ancient India and Nepal where Buddhism originated were also for long periods Buddhist, and whether as a result of the Buddhist, Jain or Hindu promotion of the principle of ahimsa (harmlessness) many Indians remain vegetarian.
Vegetarian cuisine is known as zhāicài ("(Buddhist) vegetarian food") in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan; đồ chay in Vietnam; shōjin ryōri (精進料理, devotion cuisine) in Japan; sachal eumsik ("temple food") in Korea and by other names in many countries. The dishes that comprise Buddhist cuisine in any given place will be influenced by the native style of food there.
The origin of "Buddhist food" as a distinct sub-style of cuisine is tied to monasteries, where one member of the community would have the duty of being the head cook and supplying meals that paid respect to the strictures of Buddhist precepts. Temples that were open to visitors from the general public might also serve meals to them and a few temples effectively run functioning restaurants on the premises. In Japan, this practice is generally known as shōjin ryōri (精進料理, devotion cuisine), and served at many temples, especially in Kyoto. A more recent version, more Chinese in style, is prepared by the Ōbaku school of zen, and known as fucha ryōri (普茶料理); this is served at the head temple of Manpuku-ji, as well as various subtemples. In modern times, commercial restaurants have also latched on to the style, catering both to practicing and non-practicing lay people.
Philosophies governing food 
Most of the dishes considered to be uniquely Buddhist are vegetarian, but opinions and restrictions on the eating of meat, and whether it should be prohibited, vary between sects.
When monks and nuns who follow the Theravadan way feed themselves by alms, they must eat leftover foods which are given to them, including meat. (The Pali/Sanskrit term for monks and nuns means "one who seeks alms".) The exception to this alms rule is when monks and nuns have seen, heard or known that animal(s) have been specifically killed to feed the alms-seeker, in which case consumption of such meat would be karmically negative. The same restriction is also followed by lay Buddhists and is known as the consumption of the "triply clean meat" (三净肉). Additionally, the Pali Sutras where this rule is set forth tell of the Buddha refuting a suggestion by his student Devadatta to include vegetarianism in the monastic precepts.
In the Mahayana tradition, by contrast, acceptance of the Pali Sutras is contested and several of the sutras that comprise the Mahayana canon contain several explicit prohibitions against consuming meat, in one case saying "One who eats meat kills the seed of great compassion". Japanese Buddhist sects generally believe that Buddha ate meat. All Japanese Kamakura sects of Buddhism (Zen, Nichiren, Jodo) have relaxed Mahayana vinaya, and as a consequence, vegetarianism is optional. Tibetan Buddhism believes that tantric practice makes vegetarianism unnecessary. Chinese Buddhism and part of Korean Buddhism strictly adhere to vegetarianism.
Other restrictions 
East Asian "Buddhist" cuisine differs from Western vegetarian cuisine in one aspect, that is avoidance of killing plant life. Buddhist vinaya for monks and nuns prohibits harming of plants. Therefore, strictly speaking, root vegetables (such as potatoes, carrots or onion) are not to be used as this will result in death of vegetables.[dubious ] Instead, vegetables such as beans or fruits are used. However, this stricter version of diet is often practiced only on special occasions.
Some Mahayana Buddhists in China, Japan and Vietnam specifically avoid eating strong-smelling plants, traditionally garlic, Allium chinense, asafoetida, shallot, and mountain leek, and refer to these as wǔ hūn (五荤, or 'Five Acrid and Strong-smelling Vegetables') or wǔ xīn (五辛 or 'Five Spices') as they tend to excite senses. This is based on teachings found in the Brahamajala Sutra, the Surangama Sutra and the Lankavatara Sutra (chapter eight). In modern times this rule is often interpreted to include other vegetables of the onion genus, as well as coriander. This draws parallels with some sects of Hinduism who also do not consume pungent tasting foods.
The food that a strict Buddhist takes, even if not a vegetarian, is also specific. For many Chinese Buddhists beef and the consumption of large animals and exotic species is avoided. Then there would be the aforementioned "triply clean meat" rule. One restriction on food that is not known to many is the abstinence from eating animal innards and organs. This is known as xiàshui (下水), not to be confused with the term for sewage.
Alcohol and other drugs are also avoided by many Buddhists because of their effects on the mind and "mindfulness". It is part of the Five Precepts which dictate that one is not to consume "addictive materials". The definition of "addictive" depends on each individual but most Buddhists consider alcohol, tobacco and contraband drugs to be addictive. Although caffeine is now also known to be addictive, caffeinated drinks and especially tea are not included under this restriction; tea in particular is considered to be healthy and beneficial and its mild stimulant effect desirable. One of the origin myths of tea states that the tea plant sprung from the cut-off eyelids of Bodhidharma, after he cut them to prevent himself from falling asleep during meditation.
Simple and Natural 
In theory and practice, many regional styles of cooking may be adopted to be "Buddhist" as long as the cook, with the above restrictions in mind, prepares the food, generally in simple preparations, with expert attention to its quality, wholesomeness and flavor. Often working on a tight budget, the monastery cook would have to make the most of with whatever ingredients were available.
In preparing food, it is essential to be sincere and to respect each ingredient regardless of how coarse or fine it is. (...) A rich buttery soup is not better as such than a broth of wild herbs. In handling and preparing wild herbs, do so as you would the ingredients for a rich feast, wholeheartedly, sincerely, clearly. When you serve the monastic assembly, they and you should taste only the flavour of the Ocean of Reality , the Ocean of unobscured Awake Awareness, not whether or not the soup is creamy or made only of wild herbs. In nourishing the seeds of living in the Way rich food and wild grass are not separate.""
Following its dominant status in most parts of East Asia where Buddhism is most practiced, rice features heavily in as a staple in the Buddhist meal, especially in the form of rice porridge or gruel as the usual morning meal. Noodles and other grains may often be served as well. Vegetables of all sorts are generally either stir-fried or cooked in broth with seasonings and may be eaten with various sauces. Eggs and dairy are generally permitted and may show up on occasion in moderate amounts; dairy is not common in purely Japanese and Chinese preparations but may appear in dishes from American and European monasteries that follow the traditions. Seasonings will be informed by whatever is common in the local region; for example, soy sauce and dashi figure strongly in Japanese monastery food while curry may be prominent in Southeast Asia. Sweets and desserts are not often consumed, but are permitted in moderation and may be served at special occasions such as in the context of a tea ceremony in the Zen tradition.
Buddhist vegetarian chefs have become extremely creative in imitating meat using prepared wheat gluten, also known as "seitan" or "wheat meat", soy (such as tofu or tempeh), agar, konyaku and other plant products. Some of their recipes are the oldest and most-refined meat analogues in the world. Soy and wheat gluten are very versatile materials, because they can be manufactured into various shapes and textures, and they absorb flavourings (including, but not limited to, meat-like flavourings), whilst having very little flavour of their own. With the proper seasonings, they can mimic various kinds of meat quite closely.
Some of these Buddhist vegetarian chefs are in the many monasteries which serve wu hun and mock-meat (also known as 'meat analogues') dishes to the monks and visitors (including non-Buddhists who often stay for a few hours or days, to Buddhists who are not monks, but staying overnight for anywhere up to weeks or months). Many Buddhist restaurants also serve vegetarian, vegan, non-alcoholic, and/or wu hun dishes. Some Buddhists eat vegetarian only once per week or month, or on special occasions such as annual visits to an ancestor's grave. To cater to this type of customer, as well as full-time vegetarians, the menu of a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant usually shows no difference from a typical Chinese or far-Eastern restaurant, except that in recipes originally made to contain meat, a chicken flavoured soy or wheat gluten might be served instead.
Variations by sect or region 
According to cookbooks published in English, formal monastery meals in the Zen tradition generally follow a pattern of "three bowls" in descending size. The first and largest bowl is a grain-based dish such as rice, noodles or porridge; the second contains the protein dish which is often some form of stew or soup; the third and smallest bowl is a vegetable dish or a salad.
See also 
- Buddha's delight
- Buddhist ethics
- Buddhist vegetarianism
- Cultural elements of Buddhism
- Vegetarianism and religion
- Korean temple cuisine
- "Buddhism and Vegetarianism". About.com. Retrieved June 9, 2012.
- "What the Buddha Said About Eating Meat". Urban Dharma. Retrieved June 9, 2012.
- Powers, John. "Going forth: Buddhist vision of vinaya - book review <Internet>". Retrieved 16 July 2007.
- "Buddhism and Vegetarianism". Urban Dharma. Retrieved June 9, 2012.
- "The Accidental Vegetarian". Shambhala Sun. Retrieved June 9, 2012.
- "Tenzo kyokun: Instructions for the Tenzo - White Wind Zen Community". Retrieved 2012-10-15.
- Edward Farrey; Nancy O'Hara (16 May 2000). 3 Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. X. ISBN 978-0-395-97707-1. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Buddhist cuisine|
- Shabkar.org: Vegetarianism as a way of life for Buddhists
- Shojin Ryori: Vegetarian Cooking
- Tantras on Buddhist food
- Sutras on vegetarianism
- Return To The Middle Kingdom: Chinese Vegetarian Eating in East Asia
- Toshio Tanahashi