Tofu with mushroom sauce

Shojin ryori tofu

Shojin ryori tofu

This is the first recipe we tried from a beautiful shōjin ryōri cookbook called The Enlightened Kitchen by Mari Fujii (limited preview on Amazon). Shojin ryori is the traditional cuisine of Japanese Buddhist monks and does not include any animal products (although this book includes a few with yogurt). One description I read said that the monks do not eat anything “that flees when chased.” The food is based on seasonal vegetables and spices that nourish the body in accordance with the season (e.g., to warm, cool, fortify against cold).

The author’s expertise in temple cuisine is due to being married to a Buddhist monk in Kamakura, an ancient city that we visited during our trip. Maki at Just Hungry wrote a lovely review of the book.

I was surprised that many of the recipes involve frying food and include copious amounts of sesame oil, maple syrup, and peanut butter. So the dishes are not all necessarily low-calorie. Other staples include miso, kombu, and kanten (agar-agar powder).

We cheated a little on the concept of shojin cuisine by making a dish intended for another season. According to the book, this “nutritious tofu is served with a sauce of fall mushrooms, a dish to warm the body as the days grow cooler.”

As the name suggests, this dish is simply boiled tofu topped with a mushroom sauce. The sauce itself is based on stock made from kombu, a type of seaweed. One of our local grocery stores carries dried kombu from Korea, but Yusuke made a special trip to get Japanese kombu instead. A single strip of kombu was needed for this dish and was soaked in water for a few hours beforehand to make the stock.

To make the sauce: bring kombu stock, soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar, and salt to a boil in a frying pan. Add thinly sliced mushrooms (we used shitake and button) and carrots and simmer for a few minutes. Cornstarch is added at the very end to thicken the sauce. The recipe recommends garnishing the tofu with strips of blanched green beans, but we used green onions instead.

Final judgment: extremely yummy.

The next day, I ate the leftover sauce poured over rice. I had packed my lunch container the night before, and by the time I ate it, the sauce had soaked into the rice, softening the texture and adding a rich flavour.

We also had a different type of miso soup with this meal. Yusuke first toasted sesame seeds in a soup pan before adding hot water, miso paste, and bean sprouts, which gave the soap a more nutty flavour.

Bean sprout soup, rice, and tofu

Bean sprout soup, rice, and tofu

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