Monk’s Eating Style

Songwangsa Temple, Wanju

Songwangsa Temple, Wanju

Yesterday, I had this food tour held by ministry tourism of Republic Korea, or specifically government of Jeollabuk-do area. So, this I thought it will be free-food testing of Korean fine dish, but then it turns out that they brought us to introduce the history and process of Korean dish making. But, it was fun! and the most important thing, free! yippie.

I guess Jeollabuk-do area is now trying to promote other region for tourism, aside from Jeonju. Because they seems to be desperately seeking for international students for join this tour. I think, it’s because there will be KBS reporter who followed us, and reported this journey. So then, they need as many foreigners as they could. Well, here in Korea, foreigner is a lucky charm. Especially in a city with less foreigner (since in Seoul, foreigner is not a novelty anymore). And, by the way … broadcaster world is funny, well challenging is the best way to describe it. I mean, to be an announcer of TV program, means that you have to throw away the shyness thingy, be nice to everyone, seek help for interview, I gave a big bow for that KBS’s  announcer. Anyway!

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Songwangsa Temple is located around half hour away from Jeonju Hanok Village, it’s a one of Buddhist temple which offer temples stay for foreigner in affordable price, 20,000 each night. Luckily, I got it for free :p. So, finally after staying around 9 months in Korea, I have a chance to experience eating like a monk! super excited.

the interior of dining place

the interior of dining place

We were asked to take off our shoes, and sit at the floor, while the camera person busy setting the seat for all foreigner. Then, the head of the monk came inside the room, and we gave him a greeting. In front of us, there’s  4 bowls, towel, handkerchief, spoon and chopsticks. Then, he explained step by step to open, wash, and use it for eating.

Monk, describing the way to eat

the head of monk is describing the step for eating

So, basically there are 4 bowls for eating, and you have to place it according to its size. The upper-left is the smallest one, and the left side below is for the biggest one. The smallest bowl is gonna be used for banchan (side-dish), the 3rd bowl is for water, the right side below’s bowl is for soup, and the biggest one is for rice. First step, we opened the white towel which covered the bowls, place the four bowls according its size, and opened up chopstick and spoon.

1) bowls are covered by white towel 2) 4 bowls inside, with chopstick and spoon 3) this is how it looks like after you pull it out

1) bowls are covered by white towel 2) 4 bowls inside, with chopstick and spoon 3) this is how it looks like after you pull it out

Next step after we placed all the bowls and opened our chopstick and spoon, one of monk servant will distribute the water to wash the bowl. He will pour the water to the biggest bowl first, and we moved it to second bowl, but instead of going to 3rd bowl, we pour it to 4 bowl, because the water will be placed in 3rd bowl until we finish eating.

ready to eat!

ready to eat!

Then, after we finished cleaning all the bowls, spoon and chopstick, one of the monk servant will distributing the rice for each of us. But, my bowl is still wet after washing! and, guess what ? it supposed to be wet and left some water inside, so when the monk servant distributing the rice, they gonna pour the water left to the rice pan, and make it moist. After distributing the rice, the servant then distributing the soup for us. Rule #1 Don’t ask for more, if you couldn’t eat it all, you’ll figure it out why.

distributing the rice and soup

distributing the rice and soup

After filling up our two bowls, we have to fill our 4th bowl to complete our meal course. So, the servant place the side-dish tray in front of us, and the head of the monk pleased us to take one piece of each bowl, remember the rule no.1 !

the side dish, nope. there's absolutely no meat for monk.

the side dish, nope. there’s absolutely no meat for monk.

Since Buddhist monk are vegan, there’s no meat for sure. All of the dish are made from vegetables, I guess I will be much slimmer if I were a monk. Rule #2 Don’t eat the radish until you finish all the dish, I’ll tell you why.

self banchan-service, we have to move the tray (clockwise) after taking some for us.

self banchan-service, we have to move the tray (clockwise) after taking some for us.

tadaaa ... complete meal course!

tadaaa … complete meal course!

As you can see, all the dish looks very healthy … and yes after tasting it, it almost didn’t taste like anything but vegetables. I guess they didn’t pour either salt nor sugar inside, and! they didn’t use oil. So … it just feel … eating a very healthy food, and suddenly I realised how many junk food I’ve eaten the whole life, fufuu.

Before eating, we place our bowl equal to our forehead, and the head monk lead us to say “gratefulness for the food” in Korean, and he will let us eat by slapping the bamboo stick. As I’m not a good rice eater, I’m very struggle to finish my meal, I told my friend that I couldn’t finish up the rice, and she told me to keep eating it, since the head monk will be offended if we left any food. So, I finally finished it, but couldn’t help the soup.

Like always, I always be the last during eating. I’m always a slow-eater, and I don’t find it wrong, so whatever! lol. So, after I finished eating, the head monk started to tell us how to clean up the bowl. We use the radish (that’s why it shouldn’t be eaten before you finish all the dish) as the “washing sponge”, and we poured the water left from 3rd bowl to the 1st bowl, and started to cleaning it, and we keep repeating the same thing until all the bowls are clean. But then how about the soup and the radish sponge I’ve left ? I SHOULD EAT IT, EVEN FOR THE WATER LEFT AFTER CLEANING  THE BOWL. I look at my friend who sits beside me, and she left more food than me, so I didn’t bother to eat it all.

The head of monk start to distributed the basket for pouring all of the water left from the washing, and he told us, the water have to be clean (there’s mean no leftover), but then I ended up pouring the radish and soup I couldn’t finish. In the end, the head of monk checked it and be furious since us (me and some of my friends) left so many food, and make the water dirty. He then explained why we shouldn’t do that.

He explained that our food (that we just ate) are come from earth, thus in order to giving it back and show our gratefulness, we have to give it back in clean form too. As we began to clean the bowl and use water, just like that we should give the water back to earth in clean form. We have to give back as much as the earth have given us. Thus, we have to eat reliefly, mean left no leftover, and in order to do that, we should’ve just take the food according to our capacity to eat. But, instead of “just eat what you want”, we have to always be relief by what earth has give us. Relief as left no leftover, relief as saying gratefulness, relief as eating happily. In that way, we’re living our life in rightest way. Well, then I have to start to left #noleftover.

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