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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
I am lucky enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where "shojin" cuisine (Japanese Buddhist temple cuisine) is served to two wonderful restaurants: Cha Ya and Medicine. I often say "I could live on that cuisine," so when I discovered Fujii's cookbook, I was thrilled. The recipes are so simple but divinely delicious - and of course healthful! Many of the recipes call for only 5 or 7 ingredients, some of which may be unfamiliar at first. But, after your first visit to an Asian grocery or even the Asian aisle of your supermarket, you'll be ready to master this cuisine. As a vegan cooking instructor and a lover of this simple but elegant cuisine, I have prepared many of the dishes in this book and recommend each one as highly as the next. The simplicity is amazing, and the flavors are divine. You'll love this book!
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Buddhism being a religion of reincarnation, one of the precepts of cloistered monks is to harm "nothing that flees when chased." After all, that might just be your brother or wife from a past life sizzling in your cookpot. However, even those pursuing enlightenment must eat, and even monks like their food to be varied and tasty, so the spiritually pure tradition of "Shojin Ryori" was born.

Shojin Ryori is a vegan cuisine still served today in the temples of Japan, based on seasonal vegetables that can be grown by the monks. Eating food that follows the flow of nature is considered best for the body and soul, and seasoning is kept light so that the natural flavor of the fresh vegetables can be preserved.

Author Mari Fujii learned the arts of shojin ryori from her husband Sotetsu, who was the Tenzo, or temple cook, during his ten years as a monk. Now a priest at a temple in Kamakura, Sotetsu and Fujii teach shojin ryori to all who wish to learn. With "The Enlightened Kitchen," they have brought this wisdom to a wider audience, allowing all to partake of the healthy, natural and delicious style of cooking.

In seven section, including soups, salads, tofu/beans, vegetables, potatoes/rice/grains, and deserts, Fujii has selected easy-to-make dishes using seasonal vegetables that should be easy to find in any grocery store. The recipes are delightfully simple, and you will be amazed that such great food can come from such little effort. She stays with traditional Japanese vegetables, as well as occasionally incorporating rarities such as avocado and celery to mix things up. The base for most of the sauces is sake, miso paste, sesame oil, rice vinegar and lemon. She has substituted maple syrup for mirin, thinking that mirin might be hard to find in the US, but it is easy enough to swap it back. Not all of the recipes are strictly vegan, as Fujii points out that Chinese and Tibetan Shojin Ryori allow for dairy products, although authentic Japanese does not.

Of the dishes I have made, the "Chestnut Tea Rice" was excellent, as were the "Fried Pumpkin with Peanut Sauce," "Tofu Fried with Almonds," "Sweet Potato and Soybeans with Miso/Lemon Sauce" and "Koyadofu Teriyaki." I am looking forward to exploring all of the recipes, and I have no doubt that they will be equally satisfying.

It is said that those who eat Shojin Ryori fell as if a weight has been lifted off their shoulders. In the modern world where so much processed garbage gets shoveled into our bodies, it is a very pleasant feeling to sit down to a meal that is so completely natural.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Written by the wife of a Buddhist monk who has taught temple cuisine for over twenty years, The Enlightened Kitchen: Fresh Vegetable Dishes From The Temples Of Japan is a cookbook of the traditional fare that has its roots in Japan's Buddhist temples. Emphasizing natural and healthy ingredients such as fresh seasonal vegetables, and the staples of grains, and tofu, these creations are simple and elegant delights, delicious without undue extravagance. All recipes are animal-free, making The Enlightened Kitchen especially ideal for vegetarians and vegans. Full-color photographs throughout and straightforward instructions clearly show the reader how to prepare such mouth- watering delicacies as Shiitake Mushrooms Stuffed with Tofu, Sushi Rolls (prepared entirely without fish), Buckwheat Crepes, Kenchin Style Vegetable Soup, and much more. Highly recommended.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
When I first leafed through this book after purchase, I was underwhelmed - some of the recipes are very similar to one another, and although filled with beautiful pictures, this too reduces the number of recipes in Enlightened Kitchen. Also, the ingredients are so few, and the preparation methods so simple, that I was doubtful as to how flavorful the dishes could ever really be. After sampling the recipes from this book, however, I was happy to be proved wrong on both counts! I've tried around 8 dishes so far, the standouts for me being the fried tofu with almonds (honestly the best fried tofu I've had anywhere), the walnut dressing (makes any steamed/raw veggies addictive), and the seaweed potato patties (very cute and even better when some onion is added). These recipes are deceptively short and simple - the mix of flavors are perfectly balanced in everything I've tried...I wish I lived near a restaurant that offered this kind of food!
The index is useful as well, and due to the presence of several Asian markets in my area I haven't had any trouble obtaining the right ingredients.
My only qualm (hence the 4 stars) is that I wish there were more tasty recipes in this book - the many pictures are beautiful of course, but not the reason I buy cookbooks.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This books embodies the Japanese cuisine: the combination of few ingredients with the appropriate cooking technique (blanching, braising, roasting, deep-frying, poaching, steaming, etc.) to produce exquisite results.

It is beautifully photographed (in full colour) and gives enough detailed instructions so a novice cook can follow them. Please do not be discouraged at first if some ingredients can be difficult to find. Most of the recipes are not labour intensive and require few simple steps and ingredients.

In the short time I've had this book I've made Shiitake Sushi, the Green Beans and Eggplant with Sesame Dressing, Asparagus and Carrots with Walnut Dressing, and the Eggplant Salad with Lemon-Flavored Plum Dressing. Each dish was simple to make and absolutely delicious. All of them were absolutely delightful, a perfect marriage of flavours.

In this book Mari Fujii has made high end Japanese gourmet cuisine accessible. I look forward to making the other 60 recipes, and any other offerings from this author!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
As a very novice home food preparer, I found this book easy to read and not overwhelming with complicated recipes. Recently I tried one of the recipes for tempura bananas desert and found a mistake in the batter mixture. It was simple to fix during preparation, and the desert came out fantastic! Highly recommend this for a novice!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The title of the book "The Enlightened Kitchen: Fresh Vegetable Dishes from the Temples of Japan" is somewhat misleading. What you certainly won't get in this book are shojin ryori recipes or discussion of temple cooking in Japan. The recipes are very simple vegetable dishes that are a mix of Japanese and western ingredients. It's ideally suited to a vegan that is a beginner cook and looking to try something a bit different. However, I'd recommend browsing through a copy to see if the recipes are what you want or expect before buying.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I sent this to my friend as a gift and have been wanting one for myself. She wrote me shortly and told me that she made the sesame eggplant soup and thought she died and gone to heaven when she tasted it! Wow! I am looking forward to getting the book for myself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The recipes are pretty simple to follow and most of them share ingredients making it easier to stock your kitchen. My only issue is with some recipes they lack some specifics - example: sweet potato & soy bean salad. There's no specifics on whether you would eat hot/cold beans in this, or how to cook them. It simply asks you to add them. If you look in the glossary it explains how to cook your beans, but the recipe itself lacks it. Not really an issue for most I'm sure, but it's ease is lowered when you have to play scavenger hunt for certain recipes.
The recipes are delicious, and can be whipped up with moderate time allowance. I make a soup, and two sides every breakfast and dinner using some recipes from this, and other shojin books I own. I find it only takes about 30 minutes if you multitask and about an hour if they require multiple sauces to accompany them.

Overall it's a great book, some prior ingredient knowledge will definitely help & for those who can't find everything there's helpful substitutions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
It's a beautifully presented book and well organized. As a novice cook, I love cook books that have a lot of pictures so that I can visualize the finished product. For health reasons, I will not be able to enjoy some of the fried dishes, but they look very tempting. I thought about returning this because I cannot eat 100% of what is in here, but decided to try out all the others.
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