Japanese Buddhist temple cuisine. Devotional cuisine.
Sydney CBD and Inner West has a range of places for Japanese cuisine, ranging from high end restaurants, sushi trains (remember when they were all the rage?), izakaya-style bars, to food court vendors famous for their ramen. Yet, I had not encountered Japanese Buddhist cuisine.
When I made a carrot and beet slaw a couple of weeks ago, I ended up with what seemed like a mountain of beet greens and carrot tops. Looking at the carrot tops, I remembered a recipe from Melissa Clark’s website for carrot greens with sesame dressing. The recipe stuck in my mind because it came from a book written by an Abbess from a Zen (Buddhist) temple, featuring vegan recipes in the Zen tradition.
Melissa described making this dish as an almost an act of devotion or meditation, because it took so long to prepare a small amount of vegetables. It was, indeed, an exercise in patience; along the way, it became also a revelation in finding the perfect balance of flavours in the simplest rituals.
The carrots were pulled from the ground that morning, so the carrot greens had hidden pockets of dirt – healthy, hearty dirt, that played hide-and-seek while I tried to wash them out of the carrot greens. After washing, came blanching. After blanching, a quick bath of iced water. After that, soaking in 2-3 changes of cold water overnight to rid the greens of some of their bitterness.
Finally, a simple dressing of white sesames, soy, sugar and mirin.