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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.

Korean Buddhism, meat is prohibited to eat as well as some vegetables called Osinchae (오신채)

'Five Acrid and Strong-smelling Vegetables' which are garlic, asafoetida, shallot, leek, allium.

In modern times this rule is often interpreted to include other vegetables of the onion genus, as well as coriander.

Alcohol and other drugs are also avoided by many Buddhists because of their effects on the mind and “mindfulness”. 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,

tabacco and drugs other than medicine 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 healthful and beneficial and its mild stimulant effect desirable.

There are many legends about tea. Among meditators it is considered

to keep the person alert and awake without overexcitement. 


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 whatever ingredients were available. 


Korean temple food refers to a type of cuisine that originated in Buddhist temples of Korea.

Since Buddhism was introduced into Korea, Buddhist traditions have strongly influenced Korean cuisine as well. During the  Silla period (57 BC – 935 AD), Chalbap (찰밥),( a bowl of cooked glutinous rice)

Yakgwa (약과),( a fried dessert) and Yumilgwa (여밀과), (a fried and puffed rice snack) were served

for Buddhist altars and have been developed into types of Hangwa (한과), Korean traditional confectionery.

During Goryeo Dynasty, Sangchu Ssam ( 상추쌈), (wraps made with lettuce), Yaksik (약식), and yakgwa were developed, so spread to China and other countries. Since the Joseon Dynasty,

Buddhist cuisine has been established in Korea according to regions and temples.

On the other hand, the Royal Court Cuisine is closely related to Korean temple cuisine.

In the past, when the royal court maids called Sanggung(상궁), who were assigned to Suragan (수라간); (the name of the royal kitchen), where they prepared the king's meals, became old, they had to leave the royal palace.

Therefore, many of them entered Buddhist temples to become nuns.

As the result, culinary techniques and recipes of the royal cuisine were integrated into Buddhist cuisine.


About Buddhist Monk



After studying Psychology and the Pedagogy with Prof. Jean Piaget at the University of Geneva, Mujin Sunim was ordained under Ven. Ananda Maitreya Maha Nayaka Thero in 1976. In 1986 she took Bhikkuni precepts in Korea under Ven. In-hong Sunim. She founded the Lotus Lantern International Buddhist Centre in 1987 in Seoul and Popkye-sa in Switzerland in 2005. Her main interest is training and living Buddhism in the modern world.

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