Shoujin Ryouri 精進料理 & Mock Eel

I posted before about Shoujin Ryouri (also seen as shōjin ryōri or shojin ryori), over three years ago when I stayed in a temple at Koya-san in Wakayama Prefecture in Japan (GO!). I’m very fond and passionate about it, being a vegan foodie Buddhist and all; though I don’t make it as often as I would like!

Shoujin Ryouri is a Buddhist temple food from Japan (brought back from China by Dogen, founder of Soto Zen Buddhism. A basic history can be found here).

One of the things I love is the balance and rules of the cuisine. Every dish must have:

5 colors: black, white, red, yellow, green
5 tastes: sweet, spicy, sour, salty, bitter
5 preparations: raw, boiled, steamed, fried, grilled
Psst- Google “精進料理” and the food will literally pop your eyeballs out of your head it’s so amazing. @o@

One of the things I love about my city life is the opportunities that are available. And a couple of those opportunities arose when The Enlightened Kitchen author Mrs. Mari Fujii came to town: an invitation to the Embassy of Japan and a hands-on cooking class from Atsuko’s Kitchen. My head nearly exploded twice I was so excited!

Oh my gosh, a “for your consideration” page break? Yes! It’s a long and photogenic post. Don’t worry there is a RECIPE for MOCK EEL in there too! Click MORE!

The Embassy of Japan was putting on a shoujin ryouri talk/cooking-demo/tasting called “Zen and the Art of Healthy Eating”, and afterwords Omni Monkey couldn’t stop thanking me for taking him for the next 24 hours. Neither of us had eaten authentic shoujin ryouri for three years, although the sake kind of defeated the meaning of the monk cuisine!

Let me apologize in advanced for these super-sneaky, camera-phone, lack-of-quality photos.

Mrs. Fujii demonstrated making: Gomadofu, Unagi no kabayaki modoki, and Miso fondue.

Gomadofu (sesame jelly blocks, nothing to do with tofu, and one of my FAVORITE FOODS of all time)
Unagi no kabayaki modoki (mock eel; recipe follows)
Miso fondue (similar to dengaku)

We then sampled Hijiki mini-pasties, Chilli tofu with renkon chip, Sweet potato cheesecake, with wine and two different sakes.

Silken tofu with chillies and chilli oil, okra, a toasted seed, lotus root (renkon) chip. This was the highlight of the night!
Sweet Potato cheesecake with walnut base

Haiku Girl has a more detailed blog about the event HERE.

Mock Eel

“Unagi ni kabayaki modoki” by Atsuko’s Kitchen and Mari Fujii

Makes 12

3 large baking potatoes
1 1/2 sheets of nori (seaweed)
5 T dark soy sauce
5 T mirin
vegetable oil for frying
Sansho (Szechaun) pepper for garnish

  • Peel potatoes and finely grate (preferably with a Japanese grater– Oroshigane)
  • Soak grated potatoes in water to remove starch away, strain & squeeze out any excess water
  • Cut the nori into 12 rectangular pieces. This is the imitation eel “skin”
  • Make the marinade by mixing the dark soy sauce and mirin
  • Heat a thick layer of oil to 170C/345F in a frying pan
  • Spread the potato paste thinly on top of the nori. *drag a chopstick down the middle to replicate the spine indent
  • Deep fry with the nori side down first. When the surface of the potato has become brown, turn over a few times
  • After done frying a piece, strain the excess oil and dip it into the marinade dressing for an instant
  • Serve it sprinkled with sansho pepper

Omni Monkey was shocked about how “eel”-like it was, so I guess it’s pretty authentic!

I then did a Shoujin Ryouri cooking course with Atsuko’s Kitchen and Mari Fujii to learn more about it so I could start making authentic things myself. It was an early Christmas gift from my mother-in-law; how amazing is she!? Very. Thank you, Sue!

It was an intimate course with 9 people; a few had done her courses before, and the majority half were vegan (I made sure to clue them up to‘s monthly potluck and drinks get together! Londonites: come!).

Our recipe booklets and menu for the night were:
Daikon steak
Gammogoki (fried tofu patties with daikon sauce). *I used to eat these a lot in Japan! So happy to be able to make them myself.
Satoimo no dengaku (Taro root with miso sauce)
Umesu zuke (plum-pickled radishes). I can’t wait to pickle everything.
Peanut ae (peanut dressing) for any vegetables.
Kinoko okowa (mixed mushrooms with sweet rice)
Rikyu soup (turnip, miso, and sesame soup). Rikyu was a dude who loved this so much, they named it after him.
Matcha Tiramisu Yes. Green tea tiramisu, with a tofu and amaretto cream! ^_^

Astuko and our ingredients
Tofu and radish prep
Frying the daikon
Turnip, miso, sesame soup
Mixed mushrooms and rice getting ready to cook
Pre-fried tofu patties
Mari frying the tofu patties
Pan fried daikon
Prepping the plates
Fan and gourd rice presses for seasonal touches
Atsuko showing us how to press the rice in shapes
Cute veggies cut into seasonal shapes
Full meal. The nori flakes are messy, that's how you know it's mine!
Sake! Sake! Sake! Sake! Sake!
And of course, the Matcha Tiamisu!

For more recipes and information, sign up! Atsuko’s Kitchen has many courses, and Atsuko herself is very happy to adapt any foods and courses for vegans! So I definitely recommend taking some courses people! It’s a very fun and light atmosphere and you get to make Japanese food. I mean, c’mon!


Published by theveganronin

Chef Owner

5 thoughts on “Shoujin Ryouri 精進料理 & Mock Eel

  1. What a wonderful post! It was a great talk at the Embassy, wasn’t it? I’m quite jealous of your photos – I thought we weren’t allowed to take any and I was scared of getting in trouble because I know the Embassy staff! Haha. 🙂

    1. Well TECHNICALLY we weren’t… but that’s for building security! Those food pictures could have been anywhere!
      That was possibly the best free meal I’ve ever had! It was a great time. Although the woman next to me didn’t eat any of her vegetables… ummmm- what are you doing here?! hahaha

  2. Wow!! It’s marvelous!!!I didn’t know rules of the cuisine Shoujin Ryouri. I really glad that you enjoyed to cook it.
    From poor Japanese 😦 😦

  3. I love this! I’m living in wakayama (aridagawa) right now. I haven’t been to koyasan yet but i can’t wait to go 🙂 I’ll have to try this eel recipe. I once heard of a vegan recipe for eel on TV that involved yamato-imo. have you heard of anything like that?

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