중앙데일리

Temple food takes Manhattan

Sept 16,2010
Ginseng and vegetable rolls

It is time for Korea to come out of its shell, especially when promoting something as universally appealing as food, said the Venerable Hyotan, director of cultural affairs at the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, Korea’s largest Buddhist sect.

Ven. Hyotan, along with 10 other monks from Korea, will participate in a large-scale festival in New York City next Monday dedicated to promoting Korean temple food.

Approximately 250 people, including dignitaries, famous chefs and journalists will attend the event, entitled “Experience Korean Temple Cuisine.” It will be held in the 18,000-square-foot Skylight Soho gallery.

The event is a part of a government effort to globalize Korean cuisine and is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Fried kelp with sticky rice
“The Culture Ministry has been sponsoring the promotion of Korean temple food to other countries since last year,” Ven. Hyotan said. “This festival in New York will be our biggest yet.”

Ven. Hyotan also said that on Sunday, there will be a forum with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Koreans residing in New York.

In addition to a gala dinner featuring about 40 different Korean temple dishes, the event will also include a plethora of exhibitions and speeches, including a special presentation by Ven. Hyotan, a traditional tea ceremony and an exhibition of traditional Korean dishes and silverware.

Venerable Jeuk Moon, head of the Korean Temple Food Research Association, said the move to globalize couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. He is also participating in the New York festival.

“Now more than ever before, the global population is becoming health-conscious and aware, both in the physical and spiritual aspects of what they are eating,” he said. “Vegetarianism and the ‘well-being’ and organic movements are all the rage, and what better way to do it than with temple food.”

Lotus seed porridge
Ven. Moon explained that when approaching Korean temple food there are five virtues to keep in mind.

First and foremost is not using meat. There should also be no artificial additives, flavoring or coloring in temple food. The number of banchan, or side dishes, should be minimal and one must remember to free oneself from greed and try to eat lightly. In addition, processed food or food taken out of its original shape or elements, such as white rice, must be avoided.

“In a sentence, temple food can be described as food that nourishes and eventually purifies the mind and spirit,” he said.

Ven. Moon also explained that there are interesting differences between temple cuisines from different parts of Asia.

“Temple food from mainland China is very decorative and fancy in its colors and taste, which reflects the sentiment of that country’s Buddhist architecture and design,” he said. “Japanese temple food is extremely intricate, and everything from the size to the way it is cut, is precise.”

Lightly fried tofu with filling Provided by the Korean Temple Food Research Association
But Korean temple food is more rustic, with a lot of namul, or seasoned vegetable dishes, he said.

Ven. Hyotan said that compared to about 20 years ago, the presence of Korean food in the United States has increased enormously.

“It is now time to bring other elements into promoting Korean food there, including a bit of storytelling, thorough nutritional research and festive elements,” he said.

Said Ven. Moon: “There is a reason why the Lee Myung-bak administration chose globalizing Korean cuisine as one of its main campaigns. Food is such a universal and essential part of human existence.

“We all know that Korean temple food is healthy and tasty, but now it’s time to let everybody else in the world know about it.”


By Cho Jae-eun [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]



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