Fucha Ryori (普茶料理)

Fucha ryori is Japanese vegetarian cuisine introduced from China in the early Edo period. It is characterized by its rich flavor which uses plenty of kuzu (arrowroot) and vegetable oil. It is consumed with four diners sitting around one table and is considered distinctive. Representative of fucha ryori are shojin unagi (vegetarian dish which looks like broiled eel) and sesame tofu.


In the early Edo period (about 300 years ago), during the decline of the Ming dynasty, the Obaku sect of Zen Buddhism was introduced from China. The priests brough to Japan a Chinese-style vegetarian set meal (so-called sozai) which was known as fucha ryori.

Four people sit around a rectangular low table and share each prepared dish which is served on a large platter, and was regarded as a novel style of eating. Fucha ryori includes many Chinese-style dishes such as sauteed vegetables called 'unpen,' sesame tofu, and 'fake' dishes (broiled yam which looks like broiled eel).
Although it was not common for Japanese people in those days to use oil in cooking, sesame oil was used for Chinese cooking such as stir-frying and deep-frying, popularizing the use of oil in Japan
Fucha' means 'to spread tea widely,' and fucha ryori contributed to the popularity of drinking green tea.

Fucha ryori was widely enjoyed as an exotic tasting dish, and spread among cultured and ordinary people at restaurants rather than being limited to temples of the Obaku sect. Of note fucha ryori served at ordinary restaurants and shippoku dish (a Japanized Chinese dish served on large plates from which diners help themselves) from Nagasaki influenced each other mutually, and a tablecloth, wineglasses made of expensive glass, a water jug, and Western tableware were often used. During the Edo period, a book on cooking entitled "Selected Fucha Ryori" was published. Dishes themselves have gradually been incorporated into Japan, and fucha ryori today has been developed into distinctive dishes having vivid colors, which conventional vegetarian cuisine does not have.

Some temples from the Obaku sect related to Ingen, the founder of the Obaku sect, as well as temples and restaurants which serve fucha ryori are in Nagasaki City, where Kofuku-ji Temple is located.

[Original Japanese]