I recently got to check out a brand new temple food restaurant~~ I don’t go to these kinds of places regularly because they are typically on the pricier end and are better for special occasions. But there’s a new establishment called ‘Maji’ that makes temple-style food a little more accessible to the average budget, and simplifies it for every-day eating.
The restaurant hasn’t been opened long so there’s still a lingering smell of fresh paint when you walk in, but not in a bad way~ It just smells and feels really clean and new. Nice relaxing, calm ambiance.
There are various sets you can choose from, with prices ranging from 8,000-15,000won. The one we got was 12,000won and came with about 7 different side dishes, soup, and two bundles of rice wrapped and steamed in lotus leaves (portions are meant for one person).
Unwrapped. During steaming, the rice absorbs some of the flavorful essence of the lotus leaves and supposedly gives the rice a nutritional boost. The rice has a golden, sticky and very mildly sweet coating on the top, as well as a few pine nuts for decoration. The little bowl in middle has a teeny bit of very strong and salty dwenjang paste, meant to be enjoyed with the rice.
The thing to remember when eating temple food is that in addition to being totally veg, they also don’t use any garlic or onions and they use seasonings rather sparingly. As a result, the food can be on the bland side for most people who aren’t used to eating this way, myself included. Also, the portions are just the right amount to satisfy your hunger, but not totally fill you up. So try to eat slower, savor each bite, and think about what you’re eating, rather than scarfing everything down in 5 minutes.^^ Temple food always makes me more mindful while I’m eating– something I should practice more in every day life.
The sauce was really flavorful and the mushrooms had a yummy chewy texture. We loved this so much we ordered another serving of this side dish alone (4,000won). Banchan refills are not free, but you can order more banchan separately.
The bulgogi ‘meat’ was cut into small pieces so it was easier to just mix it all with the rice and dig in with a spoon. I hardly ever eat soy/wheat meat at home, so it’s always nice to indulge in some at a restaurant.
In the end, I think Maji is a nice choice for a casual temple-food experience. You get to enjoy simple traditional Korean food, but in a modern setting, so you don’t have to sit on the floor which some people might find uncomfortable. The prices are also affordable (although portions may be a bit small), and you will leave feeling like you did something good for your body. Check their website for more info on the restaurant and also their catering services.
Directions to Maji
Naebang Station, Line 7. Exit 6. Walk straight about 10-15 minutes, passing a Nonghyup Bank on your left and a GS gas station on your right. At the next big intersection, cross the road and turn left. Maji will be on your right, two blocks down.
서울특별시 서초구 방배동 793-13
Monday – Saturday: 9am – 9pm
Sundays: 11:30am – 7pm