CNN explores Asia's ancient temple cuisine

CNN explores Asia's ancient temple cuisine

CNN meets Indian celebrity chef Vikas Khanna


Mumbai: Asia's wide variety of temple food has a long and ancient history of focusing the mind, balancing the body and nourishing the soul. Ingredients are fresh, local, often vegetarian, and always healthy, offering a cleansing template for eating in today's modern world. This month, CNN’s Food for Thought visits several temples across Asia making exceptional food for its devotees and the award-winning chefs bringing those health-giving traditions and ingredients to some of the world's top tables.

In central Tokyo, Seishoji Temple is an oasis of calm. CNN meets up with chef Yusuke Nomura, whose grandmother founded a restaurant over seventy years ago on the temple grounds dedicated to cooking the ancient art of Japanese temple food – ‘shojin ryori’. The plant-based cuisine is focused on fresh seasonal ingredients and minimal seasoning to maintain a balance of the mind through balance on the plate. Now with one Michelin star, the family restaurant, Daigo, continues to serve high-end shojin ryori inspired by Buddhist teachings and Nomura’s family legacy.  

CNN then travels to Jinkwansa Temple in Bukhansan National Park in Seoul to learn about the ancient art of fermentation and Korean Buddhist temple cuisine. The nuns, led by the Master of Korean Buddhis temple food Ven. Gyeho Sunim, cook with vegetables grown on temple grounds and forage for local wild delicacies like mushrooms and herbs depending on the season. Back in Seoul's busy hub, CNN talks to chef Kim Dae-Chun, of Seventh Door restaurant, who uses the ancient fermentation and ageing processes inherent in Korean food to create Michelin-starred dishes based on what he considers the country’s culinary DNA. Ever since visiting Jinkwansa Temple, he has been fascinated by their cooking, which now provides inspiration for his innovative dishes.

Finally, CNN visits the heart and soul of Sikhism - the Golden Temple in Amritsar, in northern India. Here, the community kitchen feeds tens of thousands of people a day with fresh vegetarian cooking. Spices play a key role here, including the ‘golden spice’ -- turmeric. Its health-giving properties may help treat inflammation, arthritis, and high cholesterol. CNN meets Indian celebrity chef Vikas Khanna, who grew up in Amritsar and continues to be inspired by the giant community kitchen of the Sikhs in his hometown. He’s now on a mission to bring the flavours of India back to his adopted hometown of New York.