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The Dietary Culture of Asia

Religion and Diet

The foods selected for consumption by various ethnic groups and their outlook on food and eating manners are closely related to religion. It is well known that Moslems do not eat pork, but other animals as well must be slaughtered by a Moslem or they cannot be eaten by followers of Islam. The ninth month of the Islamic calendar is a month of fasting, when Moslems may not eat or drink during the daylight hours. For Hindus, the cow is sacred and the eating of beef is forbidden. Many Hindus go further and are vegetarians for religious reasons.

In China, the influence of Taoism has led to the deeply-rooted belief in food as a way to long life. Food is thus deemed to be medicinal, and all foods are classified according to their medicinal properties. For example, eggplant is medicinally effective, it is said, in cooling the blood, so that it should be eaten by those with high blood pressure. Ginger, on the other hand, heats the blood and thus is beneficial to persons with anemia. In this way, a balancing of the condition of the body is sought through food.

In Japan, through the influence of the Buddhist proscription on killing, meat was not commonly eaten until the latter part of the 19th century.

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