While we were planning our Spring menu we had the pleasure of cooking with Toshio Tanahashi a Japanese master chef of the traditional Shojin kitchen.
Shojin ryori (Buddhist vegetarian cuisine) loosely translates to "devotion/self discipline cooking" and Toshio Tanahashi’s style goes beyond tradition to create something new and unique.
Tnahashi explained the philosophy and history of Shojin and showed us some of his techniques. For example, we ground sesame seeds in a bowl with a wooden stick for what seemed hours, until we ended up with a fantastic smelling and tasting sesame paste. The grinding is part of the daily meditation for a stress free kitchen.
Shojin is based on the teachings of Buddha, and is a rigorous discipline that asks us to face vegetables entirely and patiently and receive their life – both visible and invisible – to enhance our own. Taking the time and effort to prepare and cook vegetables, fruit and grains with our hands is a form of training that purifies body and soul. Preparing meals, eating them, and excreting them smoothly – this is the natural way of life. Tanahashi believes that pursuing the possibilities of vegetables will help us find solutions to many crucial issues facing us today – food supply, population control, health, energy and more. The essence of Shojin is a respect for the soil and terroir, leading to physical and mental wellbeing.
The principles aren’t that far removed from tibits beliefs. Like using the whole vegetable, seasonal and local
produce, and to not over season and mask the natural taste. We’ve also learned, that most of the cooking is done by boiling. Hardly any fat is used.
We're sure this meeting will have a long lasting influence on the team, but the first two dishes from the workshop are Katsu Curry and Gomaae.