There’s something alluring about temple cuisine (사찰 요리); whether it be the natural vegetarian ingredients, the simple presentation, vivid flavors created with restraint, and overall demonstration of the core Buddhist practice of sustainability.
Food + Wine wrote an article about Momofuku David Chang’s temple cuisine exploration, which ignited my own spark to experience temple cuisine one day. I’ve been seeing more and more articles popping up on temple cuisine as people are becoming more mindful of their consumption and exploring healthy alternatives. The Korea Herald’s recent story was on how temple cuisine is going global!
During our trip to Seoul in December, I was delighted that my uncle chose Go Sang (고 상), a restaurant specializing in temple cuisine, for a family meal. We selected the 진짓상 (a dinner table) set course. Everything was delicately plated and the attention to detail was apparent in the service as each dish was presented to us. Textures mimicking Korean dishes, known to be made with beef and pork, are made with soy or wheat proteins.
Two of Korea’s dominant flavors, doenjang (bean paste) and gochujang (chili paste), are vegetarian and embody full flavors through fermentation. Common preparation for vegetables in Korea is pickling or light sautéing. Thus, it is evident through these dishes that Korean flavors do not disappear in temple cuisine, but fully compliment and highlight each dish.
I understand a meal served at a restaurant versus a real temple stay meal is a vastly different experience. I would love to have an opportunity to do a real temple stay in my future visit to Seoul to have a meal in a natural zen environment.
Until then, Go Sang‘s modern rendition has appeased my curiosity temporarily. The more accessible location is an excellent alternative if you cannot make the trek to a temple. Cheers to mindful eating and the globalization of temple food!
Address: Seoul-si Jung-gu Suha-dong
67 MIRAEASSET Centerone Building B2