An Introduction to Korean Temple Food

A few weeks ago, my lovely friend Emma invited me along to a special event at the Korean Embassy with Ji Young Kim, head chef of Balwoo-Gongyang, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Korea that serves Korean Temple Food. There are so many types of foods from all over the world in London, which is part of what makes this city great and having the opportunity to learn about and try Korean Temple Food was an experience I won’t soon forget.

Korean temple cuisine originated in Buddhist temples throughout Korea. Since Buddhism was introduced into Korea, Buddhist traditions have strongly influenced Korean cuisine. I learned on the evening that Korean temple food does not use any meat as Buddhism forbids meat. Also, pungent vegetables like onions, garlic, chives, leeks, etc aren’t allowed either as they believed to hinder spiritual practice. Instead of artificial flavours, Korean temple food uses a variety of herbs and wild greens to create a delicious array of healthy vegetarian dishes, a lot of which we tried on the night!

Balwoo Gongyang promises that its food will make the body and mind healthy, and I have to say, I found the food to taste extremely clean and light as well as beautifully presented. We were introduced to 20 unique dishes, all expertly prepared by the talented Ji Young Kim herself, who was lovely to meet as well!

In doing some research ahead of the event, I had read that Temple cuisine can be quite bland and flavourless as it doesn’t use any garlic, chives, onions, etc but the dishes that we were lucky enough to sample had a lot of depth and flavour, with seasonings such as soy sauce to kick them up a notch!

We feasted on the likes of cucumber rolls stuffed with deodeok salad; Napa cabbage Kimchi with ripened persimmon; and grilled potato with jujubes and chestnuts, to name a few! Alcohol is also not allowed and we sipped on delicious lotus flower tea throughout the evening. It was great to have such an authentic experience and to me, the food felt very soulful and spiritual, unlike anything I had ever tasted before.

My introduction to Korean Temple Food was great and it’s easy to say it’s by far the most delicious, clean and healthy food I’ve ever tried. The head chef is extremely talented and so hospitable for hosting all of us. A huge thank you to the Korean Cultural Centre for organising the event and having us all there! I hope Balwoo-Gongyang comes back to London and introduces its beautiful Korean temple food to more of London next year 🙂

Have you ever tried Korean Temple Food or been to the restaurant in Seoul before? I’d love to know!