To Americans it may seem odd that elegant cuisine is served at places intended for religious worship, but in Japan the very finest vegetarian food may be found at any number of Buddhist temples that house restaurants within the temple grounds, and some manage restaurants outside the religious precincts as well. Some of these restaurants serve only at midday, while others serve an evening meal in addition.
It was at Muryoan, a Tokyo restaurant affiliated with the Ōbakuzan School of Buddhism, whose main Japanese branch is located in Kyoto, that I first sampled this thick, gingery vegetable soup. The version I present here takes advantage of the recent and increasing availability in the United States of fresh shiitaké mushrooms.
Cut the bamboo shoots in very thin (
Remove the stems from the mushrooms and save them for use in enriching stock or discard. Wipe the caps with a damp cloth to remove any dust or soil. Slice the caps into thin julienne strips.
Peel the turnip and slice it into paper-thin rounds. If the diameter exceeds
Snap off the stem end of each snow pea and pull back along the straight side to remove the string. Slice each pod in half sharply on the diagonal.
Bring a small saucepan of water to a rolling boil. First blanch the bamboo shoots for 10–15 seconds, removing them promptly with a slotted spoon. Set aside. In the same boiling water blanch the carrot and turnip for 5–10 seconds and remove them, too, with a slotted spoon, then set aside. Last, remove the saucepan from the heat and toss the snow peas into the hot water. Stir once and immediately drain the snow peas, then refresh them under cold running water. Drain and pat dry before setting aside.
Mix the cornstarch and cold water in a small cup to make a smooth paste. Add this to the soup, stirring well. Raise the heat to allow the soup to bubble and thicken. Toss the blanched snow peas into the soup, stir, and serve immediately.
© 1985 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.