Hansik (Korean cuisine), such as kimchi and Bulgogi, are now well-known to the world because they are tasty and nutritious. Hansik is healthy food because it includes lots of vegetable dishes rather than just meat. Among Hansik, temple foods are a center of concern for being strictly vegetarian foods and because they involve prohibitions regarding eating.
A Buddhist priest, Hongseung, who has been President of the Buddhist Temple Food Researching Institute since 2005, said: “Nowadays, people over-eat and it injures their health. I counsel people to eat proper amounts of food for the love nature.” Hongseung became a monk in 1985 and since then she has trained as a temple food cook starting from just washing dishes. Now she is a professional temple food chef appearing on the Buddhist TV program ‘Monk Hongseong’s Buddhist Temple Foods’ with the aim of informing people in Seoul and Busan about how great Buddhist temple foods are.
Agrafood : Could you tell us what Buddhist Temple Foods (BTF) are and how good they are for people?
Hongseung : BTF is the food for Buddhist priests in temples. In Buddhism foods are considered as medicinal nutrition understood in a broad sense. There is prohibited food in Buddhism, such as all kinds of animal food (except milk), alcoholic drinks, and Ohsinche (5 kinds of spicy vegetable, garlic, leek, wild rocambol, Korean leek and onion). Osinche is prohibited eating because it disturbs the ascetic exercises of monks. And we can eat juice, honey, black pepper, and ginger only at permitted times.
Agrafood : Is there any nutrition problem regarding eating temple food because it excludes all kinds of animal foods?
Hongseung : In the past Koreans used to eat many more vegetables and not so much meat. It is only since about 25 years ago that we have eaten more meat like now. So there is a tendency for Koreans today to think meats are the most nutritious food and vegetables less so.
However, vegetable dishes are fully nutritious with beans, nuts, and mushrooms which contain fats and protein. The most important thing is do not eat too much whatever the food is.
The problems are people’s bad eating habits, and especially ‘overeating,’ and thinking of eating too much as enjoyment.
Agrafood : Recently, more foreigners are joining temple stay programs. What is your opinion about this?
Hongseung : Their purpose in joining such programs is to experience Korean traditional culture in its spiritual form; so of course, foreigners love to eat Korean traditional food as part of their short spiritual sojourn a temple. But in my view nowadays Korean food has been losing its identity as too often it gets mixed with other foods without making sense. BTF, in contrast, are genuine Korean traditional food without any mixing. So BTF is really the best way for foreigners to experience Korean food culture in the relative solitude of a Buddhist spiritual setting.
Agrafood : Recently, the government has been putting its best effort into globalizing Korean food. Do you think BTF can contribute to this globalizing?
Hongseung : The most completive item in the global age is ‘tradition.’ Thus we should keep and globalize our tradition. Integral to our tradition, Korean food has already been globalizing but we should create menus that foreigners can enjoy whilst keeping our traditions. BTF is good for health, having the character of our traditional food and they are easy for foreigners to accept. The same goes for Japan and Taiwan where BTF are an integral aspect of Buddhist culture there. Yes, I can say that, if our government supports us globalizing BTF, we can surely succeed.
Park Sung Eun firstname.lastname@example.org
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