Citizens, attend and heed my clarion call – a rare vegetarian recipe makes an appearance on TFD! 🙂
Buddha’s delight, often transliterated as Luóhàn zhāi, lo han jai, or lo hon jai, is a vegetarian dish well known in Chinese and Buddhist cuisine. It is sometimes also called Luóhàn cài (simplified Chinese: 罗汉菜; traditional Chinese: 羅漢菜).
The dish is traditionally enjoyed by Buddhist monks who are vegetarians, but it has also grown in popularity throughout the world as a common dish available as a vegetarian option in Chinese restaurants.
The dish consists of various vegetables and other vegetarian ingredients, which are cooked in soy sauce-based liquid with other seasonings until tender. The specific ingredients used vary greatly both inside and outside Asia.
In the name luóhàn zhāi, luóhàn – short for Ā luóhàn (simplified Chinese: 阿罗汉; traditional Chinese: 阿羅漢; pinyin: Ā LuóHàn) – is the Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit arhat, meaning an enlightened, ascetic individual or the Buddha himself. Zhāi (simplified Chinese: 斋; traditional Chinese: 齋; pinyin: zhāi) means “vegetarian food” or “vegetarian diet.”
The dish is usually made with at least 10 ingredients, although more elaborate versions may comprise 18 or even 35 ingredients. If 18 ingredients are used (as in my version), the dish is called Luóhàn quánzhāi (simplified: 罗汉全斋; traditional: 羅漢全齋).
In China, Hong Kong and Toronto, when served exclusively using only the most flavor-packed vegetarian ingredients, such as pickled tofu or sweet bean curds, it is known as tián suān zhāi (simplified Chinese: 甜酸斋; traditional Chinese: 甜酸齋; pinyin: tian2 suan1 zhai1; literally “sweet and sour vegetarian dish”).
It is traditionally served in Chinese households on the first day of the Chinese New Year, stemming from the old Buddhist practice that one should maintain a vegetarian diet in the first five days of the new year, as a form of self-purification. Some of the rarer ingredients, such as fat choy and arrowhead, are generally only eaten at this time of year.
The TFG version recreates the authentic recipe, with the eccentric addition of Takuan, the Zen-Buddhist developed Japanese pickle of Daikon Radish! While most Buddhist recipes shy away from strong flavors and eschew the use of onions or garlic, I think this recipe needs a boost of ‘pickle enlightenment’. 🙂
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
- SAUCE INGREDIENTS
- 4 tb Dark soy sauce
- 4 tb shaoxing wine
- 2 tb Water
- 2 Sq. white fermented bean curd – 豆腐乳
- 2 t Salt
- 1 ts Sugar
- 4 tb Sesame oil
- DRIED INGREDIENTS
- 4 Lily buds (金针; pinyin: jīnzhēn; also called “golden needles”)
- 4 Wood ear black fungus (木耳; pinyin: mù ěr; also called black fungus)
- 6 Dried Black mushrooms (冬菇; pinyin: dōnggū)
- 2 Bean curd sticks (腐竹; pinyin: fǔ zhú; also called “tofu bamboo”)
- 2 oz Cellophane noodles (粉絲; pinyin: fěn sī; also called “bean threads”)
- 4 dried Bamboo fungus (竹笙, pinyin: zhúshēng or 竹荪; pinyin: zhúsūn) if unavailable use fresh or canned Bamboo shoots instead (simplified: 笋; traditional; 筍; pinyin: sǔn)
- FRESH & CANNED INGREDIENTS
- 2 c Mung bean sprouts (豆芽, pinyin: dòu yá; 芽菜, pinyin: yá cài; or 银芽, pinyin: yín yá)
- 2 Stalks Chinese celery (芹菜; pinyin: qín cài) (prefered) or use western celery
- 2 medium Carrots
- 1 red Bell pepper
- ½ Lotus root (藕; pinyin: ǒu)
- 6 Fried or braised wheat gluten balls (traditional: 麵筋, simplified: 面筋; pinyin: miàn jīn)
- 8 fresh Water chestnuts, peeled (traditional: 荸薺; simplified: 荸荠; pinyin: bíqí), use canned if unavailable
- ⅓ cup Snow peas (traditional: 荷蘭豆; simplified: 荷兰豆; pinyin: hélándòu)
- ½ c Canned gingko nuts (traditional: 銀杏; simplified: 银杏, pinyin: yín xìng; or 白果, pinyin: bái guǒ)
- ½ c Canned baby corn
- 2 Cakes pressed bean curd
- 4 slices Takuan (Japanese pickled daikon radish, usually bright yellow in color)
- FOR COOKING
- 1 c Oil for deep-frying
- Rinse, then soak dried ingredients in warm water: soak bean curd sticks overnight; soak rest about 1 hour.
- Cut bean curd sticks and lily buds into 2″ sections. Remove hard stems from wood ears, and slice thinly. Remove stems from black mushrooms (reserve for stock pot); halve the caps. Cut thin strands of bamboo fungus or shoots into 2″ lengths. Cut soaked bean thread noodles into 3″ pieces.
- Wash and blanch bean sprouts, lotus root, celery and pepper. Slice celery, pepper, carrots, and cabbage into 2″ long pencil-size pieces and/or decorative slices as you see fit. Halve baby corn on the bias. Slice takuan into strips. Cut lotus root thinly.
- Slice pressed bean curd same size as vegetables. Deep-fry in shallow oil until slightly tan but still pliable. Drain.
- Mash fermented bean curd, then blend with sugar, dark soy, sherry and water.
- Heat wok until medium-hot. Add 4 tablespoons of deep-frying oil. Add all dry ingredients, except noodles; stir-fry 1 minute.
- Turn wok to high. Add fresh and canned ingredients, and stir-fry for 2 more minutes: sprinkle in salt after first minute.
- Add ½ of the sauce mixture, mixing with juices in pan. Add noodles. Reduce heat to medium, cover wok, and steam for 5 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked but still firm.
- Uncover, sprinkle in sesame oil and if desired more sauce. Toss briefly. Serve in a warm bowl with remaining sauce on side.
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