You sure don’t need animal products to make a lunch taste amazing!
Like our rice farm visit, another activity we couldn’t miss out on was the traditional vegan monk lunch experience. Set in Kyoto, the small restaurant would completely take us by surprise.
After a morning of visiting temples and small shops, we settled in at our lunch destination. I sure was hungry that day, which is probably why I totally went for it and tried everything. We were served a bowl of soup and a simple bento box looking object with the lid on top. I finished wiping my hands on a hot towel (very common in Japan) and peeked inside the “mystery” box. At first I wasn’t completely sure what greeted me, but it looked interesting enough. On the bottom right sat a bowl of brown rice with a little ginger. Above that was the bamboo shoots with a unique sauce to flavor it. To the left was a smaller box filled with even more foods: An ume plum (to cleanse the pale), slightly sweetened tofu, more bamboo shoots (lightly fried though), and a couple sliced up seasoned mushrooms. Complete with a light soup, and three different types of tea (green tea (matcha), normal green tea (leaves), and rice tea), our lunch certainly resembled any other Japanese meal.
After trying everything, I realized that most of the foods had their own unique taste. It was fun to have a little bit of this, have some rice, and then go for something else. On the other hand, if I was eating something like a hamburger, every bite would be more or less the same. Coming in to the meal, I had heard my mom say that it was going to be more of a “light” lunch. Hearing this, I imagined a light lunch to be a small one, with less physical food. However, now thinking back on my experience that day, I see that the term “light” refers to the flavoring of the food. Nothing was too salty or overwhelming and most of the foods seemed natural, organic, and in their simplest form (no processing). It was a humble, modest meal, which reflects the lifestyle of any Buddhist Monk, in fact.
On my trip I visited so many different areas and had so many great foods, so while my monk lunch may not be the #1 experience, it’s definitely the most unique and healthy one. I mean, you have to respect the food that these monks produce. Even without animal products, they have some sick vegan eats.