The cuisine of the 5 elements: the dance of interdependence right down to your plate

- through Fabrice Groult

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You don't have to be a Taoist or a Buddhist to be inspired by the way food is experienced in these practices and to benefit from their regenerative wisdom.

The distribution of the world according to Chinese medicine is built around five elements: earth, metal, water, wood and fire. Each element responds to a season, an organ, an emotion. According to this model, foods are related to the five flavors, the five textures and the five colors. Living the world and food according to this perception means allowing our body to adjust to a global environment, in a permanent movement of regulation. Without going into the complexity of the links that unite the five elements together, here is a table presenting their resonance in the space of food, in five colors (goshiki) , five firings (The harvest), five flavors (Gomi), five senses (gokan), five organs and five emotions.


Season élément color taste direction baking organs         emotion
spring wood green Blue acid toucher steam liver anger
summer fire Red amer see wire rack the heart joy
offseason lands yellow sweet hear boiled rates melancholy
fall metal White dirty feel sauté waist fear
winter water Black piquancy to taste free lungs tristesse


This popularization of Chinese cosmogony is enough to set a framework that can accompany us in the composition of our menus. Dietary design in this context is based on the interactions between the different elements of the world and offers us the opportunity to explore a more sensitive relationship to the interdependent reality of our diet. The transversalities described here are not to be taken literally, but rather as directions to be adapted to the situation and the season. We know it: eating strawberries in winter is an aberration, and we often attribute this nonsense to a dietary will. It's not just that: going for the slamming red that belongs to the hot seasons and the acidity of spring destabilizes our body, but also our heart. It is advisable to compose his meals by harmonizing his body and the cosmos, which also participates in reducing the illusory distance between “self” and the environment.

Practical case

To simply illustrate the dance of the elements that nourish the body as much as the heart, here is a seasonal plate that simply respects seasonal harmony:
– a sweet cereal, here a white rice sprinkled with walnuts.
– an autumn dish: pumpkin stuffed with wild mushrooms (here, trumpets-of-death).
– raw red cabbage seasoned with lemon and garnished with fresh parsley.

This plate reflects a particularly mild autumn, where the days can still be warm, but cool quickly with the rain and the wind. Here, sweetness and crunch balance each other in harmony and invites the winter which comes to the fore with the help of white pepper. Green is always present as the memory of what has been and will return.


Potimarron stuffed with trumpets-of-death:

350 grams of trumpets-of-death (or any other mushroom), a medium pumpkin (green kabocha variety, otherwise classic), 200 grams of cooking soy cream, 100 grams of tempeh, 1 tsp of white miso, non-hydrogenated margarine . Very important: hydrogenated margarines are not assimilated by the body.

Gently wash the mushrooms under running water and dry them with a fine cloth, pass the pumpkin under running water. Cut a hat and empty the pumpkin of its seeds. Bake it for 20 minutes in the oven at 190 degrees. Meanwhile, brown the tempeh in a little margarine until browned, then set aside. Then sauté the mushrooms so that they release their bitterness with the water. Mix with the tempeh and season with salt.

When the pumpkin is half cooked, remove some of the pulp and mix it with the mushrooms and tempeh. Add soy cream, miso and white pepper.


White rice (with chestnuts) and walnuts:

Clean a volume of rice at least ten times in high concentration, then leave to stand for half an hour in the last water. Empty the water and add a volume. If you have chestnuts, make a cross on the raw, flat side and sauté them for about fifteen minutes, peel them and remove the skin. Crush them and add the pieces to the rice and water.

Cover the rice in a saucepan and bring to the boil then, still covered, put on low heat and continue cooking for about fifteen minutes. Once the rice is cooked, leave covered and rest another ten minutes, serve, sprinkled with walnuts.

For the dish, if you don't have wild mushrooms, you can replace the tempeh with smoked tofu.

For raw vegetables, do not hesitate with the coming winter to add sprouted seeds, it brings texture and vitality.


Let's consider food as the medicine that adjusts us to the world.

photo of author

Fabrice Groult

Fabrice Groult is an adventurer, photographer and Buddhist who has traveled the world since a young age. After studying Buddhism in India, he embarked on an eighteen-month journey through Asia that took him to the Himalayas, where he discovered his passion for photography. Since then, he has traveled the world capturing images of Buddhist beauty and wisdom. He was a guide for ten years, and is now a journalist with Buddhist News.

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