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From the Temple, for the Temple

Temple food

Courtesy Balwoo Gongyang

Step inside a one-of-a-kind restaurant where the food is spiritual nourishment.

Visitors on search of an acclaimed monastic meal in Seoul might be surprised to find that the directions to the Balwoo Gongyang restaurant lead them not to the beautiful Jogyesa Temple but to the concrete building in front of it. Once inside, however, it all starts to set in. The decoration is tastefully austere. Rooms for private dining are separated by doors of wood and paper. In the open dining room, a slow murmur of conversation hums, barely audible. The words for a premeal chant hang on the walls of each room. Balwoo Gongyang is unlike any other restaurant— in a temple or otherwise. The establishment, run by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, is wholly unconcerned with profit. Its purpose is to share temple food and spiritual principles with the world. Other temples also share temple food with guests, but Balwoo Gongyang is set apart because it specializes in food that is usually served on special occasions and that laypeople normally wouldn’t experience. It has earned a Michelin star for three consecutive years. Temple food is a specific gastronomy connected to the 1,700-year-old t …

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