How the monks can make this delicious food without meat, fish, onions, garlic or dairy is amazing. They've been practicing, practicing for over 1100 years.
We arrived in Koyasan after taking the bullet train to Osaka Namba Station, a huge station with several different shopping plazas, then a local "express" and then a cable car up a very steep mountain, and finally a short bus ride to our beautiful temple. We will write more on Koyasan later; this is just the start of the food. This is the gorgeous Daienin, where we stayed.
Don and I have just been served 2 red lacquer trays each, laden with food. The dinners are served normally at 5:30, but since we arrived late (at 5:30) they served us at 5:45. We weren't really hungry yet, but we did our best.
On the closest tray, starting again with the tempura and proceeding clockwise.
The tempura is grated carrots with some chopped green herb. Delicious. Also there was green pepper, eggplant, squash and potato. I could not begin to finish this.
Tempura dipping sauce in small blue and white bowl.
Sake cup for a special sake the monks make in Koyasan. Very good and also supposed to be medicinal (good for the nerves).
The red lacquer bowl with sprays of gold contains a clear soup with noodles, a decorative tofu shaped like eggplant, strips of fried tofu and lemon slice.
Rice, which we wouldn't be eating until later in the meal if we were proper Japanese.
3 kinds of pickles. Very good, not as salty as the type we get in the States.
In the squarish bowl, a delicious salad consisting of shirataki (clearish, white noodles made from konnyaku, I think), slices of devil's tongue jelly (a different grade of konnyaku, slices of different vegetables and seaweed. All in a vinegary marinade/dressing. There was more to this salad; it's partially eaten.
In the red bowl, my absolute favorite. What is called Goma-tofu. It is made with sesame seeds and starch, as well as the usual soy beans, I guess. It is in a sauce with a little mound of wasabi on top. This is apparently a secret recipe passed down from monk to monk for 1100 years. I have never had anything like it. It tastes like the lightest, most delicious cheese with a very creamy, cheese-like consistency. I hope they give us some more tonight.
Tray #2, starting with the eggplant and proceeding clockwise.
Grilled eggplant. Half of it has a dark miso sauce. The lotus root has been pickled in rice vinegar. The 2 green vegetables under the lotus root are okra.
A miso nabe, or stew, in a wire net which has been lined with a stiff paper. There is a flame underneath, the stew is simmering in the paper and nothing burns. The stew has more normal, but very good tofu, clear noodles, shiitake mushrooms, mochi (which is a rice cake made from pounded sticky rice), all in a miso broth.
In the small blue and white striped, hexagonal bowl, a vegetable which has been stewed in a gelatinous broth. I wish I could describe the flavors better, but it seems beyond me. I think this vegetable may be the type of gourd which is dried and made into a loofah. I can't think of the name, but I've had it before. Very delicate and good.
The white bowl is for the nabe (stew).
The blue flowered bowl has tofu, a very different type. It was extremely juicy, had soaked up a lot of delicious sauce. I wish I could describe or figure out how they make their sauce without onions, fish or meat. I can't imagine what the base is. The rest of the dish is Japanese pumpkin, okra, gingko nuts, and a decorative piece of tofu shaped like a maple leaf.
Dessert was Japanese pears and grapes.
BREAKFAST the next day
Starting at the top LH corner, tofu with bits of vegetables and seaweed mixed into it, formed into a patty. Again, very juicy with broth. 2 pieces of an unidentified mountain vegetable on top which has also been stewed.
A clear broth with chrysanthemum leaves, enoki mushrooms, and tofu in the iron pot with the flame under it. Not easily seen in this photo, but there was also a flat square of what looked like a very fine moss. It fell apart when touched and made a beautiful pattern in the clear broth.
A little dish of soy sauce.
In the turquoise bowl to the side, gobo or burdock root, marinated with toasted sesame.
In the white bowl underneath, bowl for the broth with a lime to squeeze into it.
Back on the tray, miso soup with seaweed and a frothy sort of tofu.
Teacup and rice bowl.
Pickles and salted plum.
Wish you could be here to help us with all this food.
Era and Don