San Francisco has a very large Asian community, and fabulous Chinatown. As a child I’d visit and was always in awe of the cultural clothing, the smells, the language and of course the shops. As an adult the food was the main attraction. I discovered the different regions of China and the variety in cooking techniques and flavors between Mandarin, Cantonese and Szechuan cooking (which I ultimately decided was my favorite).
This dish (Lo Han Chai, Luohan cai, Luohan zhai, lo han jai or Buddha’s Delight) is a very popular Chinese dish made of a selection vegetables and other vegetarian ingredients cooked in a soy sauce based liquid together with other seasonings. Traditionally it was enjoyed by vegetarian Buddhist monks, but now it is popular worldwide. The name luóhàn zhai is a combination of two words which means a vegetarian diet (zhai) for an enlightened ascetic individual or the Buddha himself (luohan). If you eat it, you must may become more enlightened!
Each year the Chinese community in San Francisco produces a huge Chinese New Year’s parade. Traditional followers say that this dish represents the Buddhist belief that we should maintain a vegetarian diet in the first five days of the New Year as a method of self-purification. You don’t have to wait though, make it tonight.
I love the combination of different vegetables and ingredients! Buddha’s Delight is so tasty, you won’t even realize it’s comprised of 100% vegetables.
- ½ Chinese cabbage, chopped
- 5 pieces dried shiitake mushroom, rehydrated and cut in half
- 1-1/2 cups straw mushrooms, cut in half
- 8 ounces snow peas
- 1 large carrot, sliced
- 10 pcs baby corn, diagonally cut in half
- 6 squares fried tofu
- 1 cup water chestnuts, cut in half
- 3 Tablespoons vegetarian oyster sauce
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 Tablespoons light sesame oil
- 2 Tablespoons tapioca starch
- 6 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 2 cups water
- Blanch snow peas and run them on cold water then set it aside.
- Mix together water, oyster sauce, corn flour, sugar and sesame oil then set it aside.
- In a wok add oil then sauté half of the garlic.
- Add the white part of the Chinese cabbage then stir fry for a minute.
- Add the green part of the cabbage then stir fry for 3 minutes or until cooked. Remove the cabbages then set aside.
- Add oil in the same wok then sauté the remaining garlic.
- Add shiitake mushrooms and stir fry for a minute.
- Add carrots, baby corn, water chestnuts and stir fry for 2 minutes.
- Add tofu, straw mushrooms, cooked cabbage and sauce mix then continuously stir fry for 4 minutes, add water if necessary.
- Season with salt if needed, toss in the snow peas then serve with brown or white rice.