By Pushpesh Pant November 2004 Rare and varied recipes from the buddhist diaspora—tibetan, chinese, japanese, sri lankan, thai and Indonesian The realm of Buddhist food envelops more than half of humanity. From the land of its birth, India, the gospel spread to Sri Lanka when Mahendra and Sangmitra, children of Emperor Ashoka, carried it with them. In subsequent centuries the new faith travelled to Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia. Intrepid monks and scholars conveyed the message of the Enlightened One to China via Tibet, wherefrom it reached Mongolia, Japan and Korea. In one of his sermons, the Buddha compares the body to a string in the veena—if it is stretched too tight, imposing on it a hard ascetic discipline of self-denial, it may break and if it is allowed to hang loose, following the path of least resistance, it cannot create any music. A person aspring to nirvana cannot afford to forget this. The essence of the Buddha’s teaching is encapsulated in majjhima patipada— the middle path. If desire, the root cause of all distress and misery, is to be conquered, we must lead perfectly balanced lives, avoiding all excess and ensuring that nothing disturbs the tranquility of our mind. The body must be properly nourished and kept free from painful diseases that can only distract the mind from sadhana. This is only possible if the body is healthy and the mind is free from negative emotions. Emotional disturbances are often caused and aggravated by inappropitae food. For the Buddhists, food is an integral part of their sadhana. Like right thought and right livelihood, right food can complement right contemplation. This is the foundation of the Buddhist culinary philosophy. Buddhism does not preach denial or forced abstinence. It is true that the monks are expected to lead austere lives but their dietary regimen need not be followed by the lay. Prayas: Peppery & PungentThe way to salvation is seldom free from roadblocks. The obstacles have to be removed by conscious effort—prayas. At times, to attain purity of body and mind may mean resorting to methods: peppery and pungent! IngredientsWalnuts / Pine nuts / Hazel nuts – 30 gm /1 ozVegetable oil – 1½ tbsp / 25 mlHorseradish, cut into thin strips – 115 gm / 4 ozYellow and red bell peppers, cut into bite-sized pieces – 115 gm / 4 ozCarrots, cut into thin strips –115 gm / 4 ozJuice of orange – 1Coriander leaves, chopped – 2 tbsp / 8 gmSalt and black pepper to taste Method • Toast the nuts in a preheated wok until golden brown. Remove and keep aside. • Heat the oil in a wok; when close to smoking, add the vegetables and cook for 2-3 minutes on high heat. Remove and keep aside. • Pour the orange juice into another wok and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove and keep warm. • Arrange the vegetables attractively on a warmed platter; sprinkle over the coriander leaves and season to taste with salt and black pepper. • Drizzle over the orange juice, sprinkle with nuts and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6 Rainbow PotAll the goodness of the Vegetable Kingdom is served in the company of nutritious tofu to present a feast for the eyes. Red and green and shades of yellow all together—a rainbow in a soup bowl. IngredientsSmoked or marinated tofu, cubed – 200 gm / 6½ ozLettuce, shredded – 115 gm / 4 ozGroundnut / Sunflower oil – 2 tbsp / 30 mlSpring onions, sliced – 3Garlic cloves, cut into thin strips – 2Carrot, thinly sliced – 1Vegetable stock – 4 cups / 1 ltSoy sauce – 2 tbsp / 30 mlSugar – 1 tsp / 5 gmSalt and black pepper to taste Method• Heat the oil in a pan; stir-fry the tofu cubes until brown. Drain and set aside on absorbent paper. • Stir-fry spring onions, garlic and carrot in the pan for 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and soy sauce. • Add sugar, lettuce and tofu cubes. Heat gently for a minute and adjust seasoning. • Serve hot in individual bowls Serves 4 to 6 Emerald MomosThe dumpling comes in many avatars—dim sums and momos being the most popular. The art is to have a thin, translucent casing that encapsulates a filling of the diner’s choice—in this case emerald-hued spinach blended with tofu. IngredientsFor the doughVegetable oil – ½ tbspRefined flour – 1¼ cups /150 gm /5 ozBoiling water – 3 tbsp / 45 mlCold water – 1½ tbsp / 25 ml For the fillingMinced fried tofu – 75 gm / 2½ ozSpinach, boiled, coarsely chopped, mashed – 45 gm / 1¼ ozCapsicum, chopped – 15 gm / ½ ozSesame oil – ½ tspClear honey – 1 tsp / 5 mlLight soy sauce – ½ tbspCornflour – 1 tsp / 5 gmSalt and black pepper to taste Method• For the dough, sift the flour into a bowl, stir in the boiling water, then the cold water and finally, the oil. Mix well and knead until smooth. Divide the dough into 16 equal parts. Shape each into small balls then press flat to give circular shape (you may use a rolling pin if required). • For the filling, mix together all the ingredients until well blended. • Place a little of the filling in the middle of the small disc and bring the edges together pinching them tight to make a little pouch. • Line a steamer with a damp towel. Place the dim sums in it and steam for about 10 minutes. • Serve with sauces of your choice. Serves 4 to 6 Tempura NirvikarDraped in translucent batter, this Japanese delicacy is a demonstration of how simplicity can become sublime. Nirvikar (blemishless) is the best way to describe it. Ideal for those who wish to keep the mind unwavering. IngredientsAubergine (eggplant), sliced into thick slices and halved – ½ Okra, washed, pat dried, trimmed – 4Baby corns, washed, pat dried, trimmed – 4For the batterIce-cold water – 1 cup / 250 ml / 8 fl ozRice flour – 2 tbsp / 30gm / 1ozRefined plain, sifted, plus extra for dusting – ¾ cup / 90 gm / 3 ozSalt to tasteIce cubes – 2-3Vegetable oil and sesame oil for frying Method• Soak the aubergine in cold water until just before frying. Drain and pat dry. • For the batter, pour the ice-cold water into a mixing bowl, add the rice flour and mix well. Add the flour and salt and very roughly fold in with a fork. Do not beat. The batter should still be quite lumpy. Add the ice cubes. • Pour in enough oil to come halfway up the depth of a wok or deep-fryer. Heat the oil till smoking. • Lightly dust the vegetables with flour, dip into the batter and mix, shake off the excess batter and lower the vegetables carefully. • Serve immediately with soy sauce. Serves 4 Anna-AnkuritRice for more than half of humanity is synonymous with anna—life-sustaining foodgrains. In this recipe aromatic rice is served with ankurit (sprouted) beans to provide a nutritious yet light meal. IngredientsFragrant rice – 225 gm / 8 ozSesame oil – 2 tbsp / 30 mlLime juice, fresh – 2 tbsp / 30 mlRed chilli, small, deseeded, chopped – 1Garlic clove, crushed – 1Root ginger, grated – 2 tsp / 10 gmLight soy sauce – 2 tbsp / 30 mlClear honey – 1 Up / 5 mlPineapple juice – 3 tbsp / 45 mlWine vinegar – 1 tbsp / 15 mlSpring onions, sliced – 2Pineapple rings, cut into bite-sized pieces or use canned fruit after draining – 1Sprouted lentils or bean sprouts, washed, pat-dried – 150 gm / 5 ozRed pepper, deseeded, chopped – 1Celery, sliced – 1Cashew nuts – 50 gm / 1½ ozSesame seeds, toasted – 2 tbsp / 20 gm Method• Soak the rice for about 30 minutes, then rinse in several changes of water. Drain and boil in salted water for 10 minutes. Drain and keep aside. • Whisk together sesame oil, lime juice, red chilli, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, honey, pineapple juice, and wine vinegar in a large bowl. Slowly add the rice and stir well. • Heat a little oil in the wok spreading a thin film on its surface. Add the spring onions, pineapple rings, sprouted lentils or bean sprouts, red pepper, celery, cashew nut, and sesame seeds; stir briskly to blend. This dish can be enjoyed warm or lightly cold. Serves 6 Pravratti-NivrittiThe Lion city is renowned for its dynamism. Energy is deployed striking a balance between pravratti-nivritti engagement-detachment). This is what the seeker needs to do to cut through the fetters of karma. IngredientsDried Chinese mushrooms – 20 gm/ ¾ ozFine noodles – 225 gm / 7 ozSesame oil – 2 tsp / 10 mlGroundnut oil – 3 tbsp / 45 mlOnion, small, chopped – 1Garlic cloves, crushed – 2Green chilli, fresh, seeded, thinly sliced – 1Curry powder – 2 tbsp / 20 gmGreen beans, halved – 115 gm / 4 ozChinese cabbage, thinly shredded – 115 gm /4 ozSpring onions, sliced – 4Soy sauce – 2 tbsp / 30 mlWater chestnuts, cooked, chopped – 115 gm /4 ozSalt to taste Method• Place the mushrooms in a bowl, cover with warm water and soak for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving 2 tbsp of the soaking water, then slice. • Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil and cook the noodles according to the directions on the packet. Drain, transfer to a bowl and add the sesame oil. • Put the groundnut oil in a preheated wok. When it is hot, stir-fry the onion, garlic, and green chilli for about 3 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and cook for another minute. Now, add the mushrooms, green beans, Chinese cabbage, and spring onions. Stir-fry for 3-4 minutes more. • Add the noodles, soy sauce, reserved mushroom water, and the water chestnuts. Toss over the heat for 2-3 minutes before serving. Serves 4 Sheetal KalashThe cool pitcher—that is what the name means—is a
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