The Origin of Dubu and Kimchi
In ancient times, there lived a young spiritual practitioner, who attended an enlightened master. The young practitioner cared for the needs of the enlightened master with great devotion, preparing meals for him, farming the land, gathering fruits from the mountains, and collecting firewood. By the time the enlightened master had reached the age of eighty, he could no longer eat properly because of his bad teeth. The young practitioner’s sole concern was to serve his master well, and seeing him unable to eat anything but porridge for several years, he grew perplexed. He began to wonder what he could do to provide his master with better food. One day, instead of serving him porridge as usual, he served his teacher steamed rice that he had chewed beforehand. However, as he chewed the rice, its sweetness was lost, and he felt sorry that he could not give the rice to his master in its wholeness. Again, he pondered on whether there was any nutritious food that his teacher would be able to eat easily. He knew that the soy bean was full of nutrition, so he boiled soy beans, pounded them up and pressed them together to create a soft and delicious food. The food he created was dubu (tofu in Japanese), the health food which is popular t o day. In a later period, there lived another enlightened master who was also served by a young practitioner. T he young spiritual practitioner had only one thought in his mind, “What can I do for the enlightened master so that he can plant even greater merit before Buddha and the Heavens?”
He thought deeply about how the enlightened master might eat well so that he could maintain his health. The young spiritual practitioner was aware that the radish is a very nutritious vegetable. One spring day, he mixed various vegetables together in a flavored sauce. He then cut a radish into thin slices, soaked them in water, and added salt, letting flower petals float upon the water. When he ate it, the radish tasted too sharp and bitter. He tried salting the radish itself, but still it did not taste very good. He persevered, however, and at last conceived the idea of putting the salted radish into an earthen jar and allowing it to ferment for a while. This way, the radish was preserved by the salt, and was able to ferment inside the jar. When he took it out and ate it, it tasted good. This is how kimchi was first made. Kimchi has been indispensable to Koreans over the thousands of years since it was created. As a fermented food that is low in fat but rich in vitamins and fiber, and also contains probiotics, it has received much attention from people all over the world for its health benefits. Dubu and kimchi, dishes based on the nutritious soy bean and radish, were created out of the deep reverence of young spiritual practitioners, who served their teachers with all their mind and body.