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Kyoto Food or food from the Kyo-ryori cuisine is a surprisingly unique combination of several exotic ingredients, including fresh fern greens, pickled herring and yuba that have evolved since thousands of years. The food of Kyoto is highly influenced by zen philosophy and Buddhism.

Historical and Cultural Influences on Kyoto Cuisine

The cuisine is the result of the painstaking efforts of monks who analyzed through each imaginable inclusion of simple ingredients, particularly of soybeans – numerous ways of serving tofu miso, yuba, and soy sauce all of which contain high levels of protein.

Kyoto Food preparation entails four approaches of cooking:

  • yusoku-ryori, food made for the royal court
  • shojin-ryori, vegetarian food contrived by Buddhist monks
  • kaiseki-ryori, cuisine originating out of the tea ceremony
  • honzen-ryori, a formal way of dining practiced in samurai families.

Ingredients Commonly Used in Kyoto Cuisine

Kyoto cuisine lays much stress on using healthy ingredients. Kitchen gardening is practiced by homes and several restaurants across Kyoto and vegetables reared include kamo-nasu- a fat round eggplant and kujo-negi- sweet green onion.

  • Yuba is possibly the classic Kyoto food ingredient extracted by skimming open vats of boiling soy milk. It is served fresh along with a dilute sauce or by being dried in strips and rolls to be used later in soups and a variety of inventive ways. It is commonly used for wrapping vegetables prior to being simmered or deep-fried and is rich in protein and contains less in fat.
  • Soyabean, being a preferred indulgence of the people of Kyoto has led to make Kyoto the abode of fine tofu. As tofu consists of almost 90% water, the underlying link of underground springs facilitates the fostering of good tasting tofu.
  • Prominent tofu based dishes are hiya yakka – which is chilled tofu containing a topping of spicy combination of grated ginger and chopped green onions, with a shower of soy sauce and the yudofu which is made of seaweed or konbu simmered in water to which blocks of tofu are added and cooked. For eating, the tofu is drenched in broth or a sauce.

Traditional Recipes

Kyoto Food can be a simple assortment of barley rice, miso soup, pickled vegetables, fish and a cup of the basic tea for a modest meal mostly using vegetarian ingredients characteristic to the Buddhist population.

  • Shojin-ryori is a Zen-style cooking making food for serving in temples adopted by many vegetarian restaurants presently, is a transformation of the simple food of Buddhist priests – rice, soybeans and vegetables - into a interestingly delicious line of food prevalent in most preparations across Japan.
  • Tofu ryori, a rare staple food in the Zen vegetarian diet, can be had at several restaurants across Kyoto.