Citizens – your glorious leader is a renowned carnivore, yet even I can occasionally be swayed to the delights of the vegetarian on rare occasions!
This is one of them, and few people have mastered the art of making vegetarian cuisine emulate meat better than the Chinese Buddhists!
As noted on buddhism-guide.com:
Buddhist cuisine is a kind of cuisine mainly for the believers of Buddhism. It is known as zhāi cài (zhāi means “purification” or “discipline”, cai means “cuisine” or “vegetable”) in China.
Reincarnation is one basic tenet of Buddhism, and this includes rebirth of humans as other animals, and vice-versa. As a result, many Buddhists do not kill animals and many also do not eat meat. Other common reasons cited are that killing animals and/or eating their meat are a violation of the Five Precepts, bad for one’s own karma, and because of a compassion for other animals.
Many vegetarian Buddhists are not vegan, but for those who are vegan, such beliefs are often due to objections about the circumstances in which the animals producing products such as milk and eggs are raised.
Some Mahayana Buddhists in China and Vietnam also avoid eating strong-smelling plants such as onion, garlic, chives, shallot, and leek, and refer to these as wu hun (五葷, ‘Five Spices’).
One theory behind this Buddhist dietary restriction is that these vegetables have strong flavors which are supposed to excite the senses and, thus, represent a burden to Buddhists seeking to control their desires.
Another theory is that these are all root crops, and harvesting them requires killing organisms in the soil. The latter explanation is accepted in the Jain religion that sprung up in India at the same time as Buddhism, and quite possibly influenced its practices. It is unclear, historically, what the original reason was for this restriction.
Buddhist vegetarian chefs have become extremely creative in imitating meat using prepared wheat gluten, also known as “seitan” or “wheat meat”, soy (such as tofu or tempeh), agar, and other plant products. Some of their recipes are the oldest and most-refined meat analogues in the world.
Soy and wheat gluten are very versatile materials, because they can be manufactured into various shapes and textures, and they absorb flavourings (including, but not limited to, meat-like flavourings), whilst having very little flavour of their own. With the proper seasonings, they can mimic various kinds of meat quite closely.
Some of these Buddhist vegetarian chefs are in the many monasteries which serve wu hun and mock-meat (a.k.a. ‘meat analogues’) dishes to the monks and visitors (including non-Buddhists who often stay for a few hours or days, to Buddhists who are not monks, but staying overnight for anywhere up to weeks or months).
Many Buddhist restaurants also serve vegetarian, vegan, non-alcoholic, and/or wu hun dishes. Some Buddhists eat vegetarian only once per week or month, or on special occasions such as annual visits to an ancestor’s grave. To cater to this type of customer, as well as full-time vegetarians, the menu of a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant usually shows no difference from a typical Chinese or far-Eastern restaurant, except that in recipes originally made to contain meat, a chicken flavoured soy or wheat gluten might be served instead (e.g. “General Tsao’s chicken” made with flavored wheat gluten).
Citizens, despite my aversion to veg, this is one mock meat dish that truly satisfies – my version is quite traditional, but has a few TFD-inspired bits of genius added in to make this truly the ne plus ultra, nay, the NIRVANA of karmic vegetal delight!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
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