Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tasteless food?

"One who really knows how to eat, will eat the tasteless food."

This I saw as part of a Dharma teaching or mantra at a recent visit to the Nan Tian Temple in Wollongong. There were other parts to it referring to all sorts of other aspects, but this one stood out for obvious reasons. I think it's something about transcending beyond what we can sense here in this world - but that's all a little bit too deep for me.

Instead, I'm there for a little bit of clarity and hope. And a vegetarian lunch. And maybe general sightseeing as I feel like I still have the tourist bug in me: happy snapping and looking at everything as if it were unique and utterly intriguing. It's quite an open way to live life actually, and afterall, aren't we all tourists of this world? I have my philosophising moments.

After a round of the gardens and shrines we head to the lunch room, half of which is packed with youngsters on a camp of some sort. We later see them all on a 'meditative walk' after lunch. The room is light and airy and set with square tables and stools in a clever imitation stone. They're plastic - fantastic!

Dining room at Nan Tian Temple, Wollongong

The meal is served, after paying, from an open hot bar. It's a little unusual but you tell servers which choices you'd like and they serve it to you. It's almost as if it was previously an open buffet. Anyway, I get a bit of everything with my plate ending up looking as below:

Vegetarian lunch at Nan Tian Temple, Wollongong

A mixed bag indeed. I receive both steamed rice and Hokkien noodles while a fellow lunch pilgrim had to choose one or the other. Most intriguing was the, what I call, vegetarian sweet and sour pork, which is seen in the fore of the picture. Standard flavour with pineapple and red capsicum, but the 'pork' (which sort of looks like intestines in the picture) was an interesting vegetarian style meat type. It had the texture of really firm bean curd sticks, or tripe almost. I must have had the oddest look on my face as I chewed it because I was trying to determine the taste and texture and origins and many other things from this bit of flour concoction.

There were two other vegetable dishes: one with crisp celery and carrot, the other with overcooked cauliflower and what another diner insisted was duck meat. It would have been amazingly good imitation vegetarian duck meat, we reassure him. And on top a few items of crispy tempura vegetables. Two pieces I received were jap pumpkin and the other two were somewhat indiscernible. They were green leaves. From what plant I'm not sure but I ate them nonetheless. Waste not, want not.

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