Fragrant vegetarian cuisine: overview

tutorial posted 1999-12-28 - last updated 2016-12-09

Part 1 of the Fragrant vegetarian cuisine series:

  1. Fragrant vegetarian cuisine: overview
Taiwan buffet
Seeing is deceiving. It's eating that's believing.
-- James Thurber

What is "Fragrant vegetarian cuisine"?

From 1999-2016, these articles called this cuisine "Chinese vegetarian". I called it that because in all my initial encounters with the cuisine, it was served to me by people speaking a Chinese language, in venues filled with Chinese writing and symbols.

But even after encountering the cuisine in Thailand, where it was served to me by people speaking a Thai language, in venues filled with Thai writing and symbols, I continued to call the cuisine "Chinese vegetarian": clearly illogical, clearly a result of being too lazy to overcome mental inertia.

No onion or garlic?

This cuisine is distinguished from other vegetarian cuisines by its exclusion of plants of the Allium genus, such as onion, garlic, scallion, shallot, leek and chives. These plants produce characteristic pungent odors, that are generally deemed socially offensive. Their exclusion from the cuisine is derived from warnings in Buddhist scriptures, as the cuisine has origins in Chinese Buddhism. Thus it is often called "Buddhist vegetarian" cuisine.

But is Buddhist vegetarian an accurate description? The cuisine has found wide acceptance beyond the group that developed it, and is enjoyed by adherents of other religions - including Jains, Muslims and Jews (some restaurants have even been certified halal or kosher), Hindus, and Sikhs.

It is also enjoyed by people not affiliated with a religion, but who choose to forego meat (perhaps for just one meal), appreciate light subtlety, or who just like to eat something different.

So, in this wretched world of disastrous ethnic and religious polarization, it's clearly time for a more suitable name:

Non-Allium Vegetarian Cuisine

OK, maybe that's not the most appealing name... how about "Fragrant vegetarian cuisine"?