Monday, 20 June 2005

Buddha's Delight

For me, after work dinner at home usually consists of some meat stew and steamed vegetables with the occassional rice. Sometimes I hanker for a more 'sophisticated' veg dish and try to whip up something quick. I almost always end up doing a Chinese stir fry because it's so easy to cook in the shortest time possible. But this dish involves braising under cover not just plain stir frying. I love the combination of the ingredients with the simplicity of the sauce it uses.

This dish is also known as 'Buddha's Delight' or Lo Han Zhai that normally uses 18 different items which I'm not sure if it represent the 18 arahats or 18 disciples. Whichever it symbolises, this Chinese dish definitely has Buddhist connections. Nowadays the use of six to eight vegetables is the more usual practice. I adapted this from the Chinese Cookery Secrets cookbook of Deh Ta Hsiung. I adore the succulent straw mushrooms but still hated the stink of bamboo shoots. Despite washing and draining it several times it still have that smell that I abhor. So probably next time I'll replace it with something else. Also the original recipe tells you to stir fry in a wok first then transfer to a casserole. I decided to do away with the wok and stir fry right in my cast iron pot which I think is okay. Also, if you have ready made seasoned oil in your cupboard you can eliminate the ginger. It's just for spicing up the oil which is entirely optional. So this is my take on the Buddha's Delight ...

Buddha's Delight
(Vegetarian Casserole)

1 cake tokwa (beancurd) - diced into 1/2-inch cubes
cooking oil for frying
2 small ginger slices (optional)
5 g  [about 1 big piece] dried black fungus (wood ears)
85 g  [3/4 cups] bean sprouts
115 g  [about 3-4 stems] Chinese cabbage - cut into small pieces
1 small carrot - cut diagonally into thin pieces
50 g  [1/2 cup] sitcharo (mangetout or snow peas) - topped and tailed
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp soft brown sugar
85 g  [1/2 cup] sliced bamboo shoots - rinsed and drained
85 g  [1/2 cup] straw mushrooms - drained
1 Tbsp light soy sauce or oyster sauce
3 Tbsp stock
few drops of sesame oil
  1. Soak black fungus in warm water for 20 minutes, rinse and drain well. Cut into bite size pieces discarding any hard bits.
  2. Mix stock, soy sauce or oyster sauce in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Heat about 2-3 Tbsp oil in a non-stick pan and fry one small slice of ginger (if using) until it turns brown. Discard ginger then fry bean curds in the same oil in pan until light brown. Drain and set aside.
  4. Heat about 2 Tbsp oil in a casserole or medium sized pot. Again fry one small slice of ginger (if using) in the oil until the ginger turns brown. Discard ginger.
  5. Stir fry the Chinese leaves in the pot for about 1 minute then add the carrot, mangetout and bean sprouts with the salt and sugar. Cook for about 1 minute.
  6. Add the black fungus, bamboo shoots, straw mushrooms, and stock mixture. Blend well and bring to boil. Then reduce heat and cook under cover for 5 minutes.
  7. Lift cover and add sesame oil. Stir for a few seconds more and then serve.

Note: If you must wait for quite sometime before serving it, do not put the lid tightly on the pot. Keep it slightly ajar to prevent the vegetables from overcooking and discoloring.

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