You must be familiar with the word “Zen”. It’s the word you sometimes hear in the daily conversation, in the fashion world, in the product names, and so on. The word “Zen” gives us the image of being simple and natural and, therefore, cool.
The word “Zen” comes from Zen Buddhism, one of the sects of Buddhism. Zen Buddhism is largely divided into Soto school and Rinzai school. Fukui Prefecture has Eiheiji Temple, the main temple of Soto school, where priests in their apprenticeship from all over Japan do ascetic practice every day.
Zen Buddhism is famous for Zen meditation sitting cross-leged. Eiheiji Temple and Daianji Temple provide the visitors with an opportunity to experience Zen meditation.
Eiheiji Temple won two stars in Michelin Green guide Japon (Japan edition).
Fukui’s long history with shojin-ryori can be traced to the Soto Sect Head Temple Eihei-ji where, in the second year of the Kangen era (1244), shojin-ryori was established alongside the temple itself by Dogen, founder of the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism. At Eihei-ji, Dogen clarified the duties of the head chef, respectfully referred to as the Tenzo, and wrote a book on these duties entitled “Instructions for the Cook.” This book outlined the proper methods of cooking shojin-ryori imbued with the “Three Virtues and Six Flavors.” In simple terms, this style of cooking treats both the ingredients and those who receive the final product with the utmost level of respect, and through this process, simultaneously gives thanks to all creation. Due to the applicability of Soto Zen practices in everyday life, these teachings were absorbed by the greater populace and spread throughout society with relative ease.
You can eat shojin ryori, or Japanese vegetarian dishes, at the restaurants around Eiheiji temple. Shojin ryori is the origin of our modern Japanese food representing the spirit of Zen.
Goma-dofu, or crushed sesame seeds boiled in water and chilled like tofu, has been produced in Eiheiji area. Goma-dofu produced there has excellent quality. It is made by kneading selected, high-quality sesame and Yoshino kuzu together adding pure water. (Kuzu refers to the starch made from arrowroot.) The delicate and rich flavor of sesame and sticky texture of Goma-dofu give us an exquisite sense of satisfaction. It goes very well with miso paste.
Abura-age refers to deep-fried bean curd. The feature of abura-age made in Fukui is its bigger and thicker size than ordinary ones. When boiled in soy sauce-based soup, it tastes delicious absorbing the tasty soup plentifully. It is a specialty food in Fukui and a popular ingredient used for nimono, or boiled dishes, and osuimono, or clear soup.