Eiheiji chief cook publishes vegetarian recipes

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ryokyu Miyoshi
May 20, 2014

FUKUI—As chief cook for Eiheiji temple in Fukui Prefecture, one of the head temples of the Soto sect of Buddhism, Ryokyu Miyoshi is in charge of preparing meals for about 200 monks studying and training at the temple.

Miyoshi, 66, published a collection of vegetarian recipes in March under the title “Mijikana Shokuzai-o Tsukatte” (Using ingredients familiar to us). Gaining widespread popularity, all 2,000 copies of the book’s first edition sold out in the first month.

Miyoshi was born to the family of a monk at a Soto sect Zen temple in Oita Prefecture. He entered Eiheiji when he was 18, picking up vegetarian cooking skills while studying Zen.

He says he was motivated to take up cooking because eating is essential to life and because Soto sect founder Dogen is known to have placed high importance on cooking and meals as a key religious practice of the sect.

“I was determined to become a cook for my entire life, since I felt it was worthwhile to pursue tasty dishes by making the best possible use of limited ingredients,” Miyoshi said.

His popular book is a compilation of his articles published in the temple’s periodical since 2005. More than 100 dishes are introduced, including a mixture of sesame and tofu, butterbur sprouts boiled in soy sauce and avocado tempura, all of which make use of seasonal produce.

The recipes do not list specific amounts of seasoning because, in his words, “Different people like different tastes.” The book gained a reputation for its easy-to-understand language, with the author teaching readers such techniques as the proper use of cooking knives and how much to heat ingredients.

Miyoshi said he regretted that an increasing number of monks lack knowledge about seasonal delicacies, so he often takes young monks into the mountains to collect wild vegetables and think up new recipes together.

With a calm smile, Miyoshi said, “Be thankful for the ingredients you use, and you will become a careful and considerate cook.”

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