It is a tradition for people to refrain from eating meat on New Years Day in line with Buddhist practice, as a form of self purification, to counteract the effects of excessive meat eating during the year. It is also considered fortuitous for garnering good karma by refraining from eating anything that has been killed on New Years Day.
Buddha’s Delight is a vegetarian dish that my family always has on the first day of the New Year. Most people have this dish as you can include a wide selection of dried and fresh ingredients which symbolize luck and success, and it’s very easy to cook (the preparation of ingredients takes a while as you have to soak all the dried ingredients first but the actual cooking time is quite short).
This is a dish were every household has their own way of cooking it. Whilst this is supposed to be a vegetarian dish, it is not uncommon for oyster sauce to be used as a seasoning. The way that my family cooks this dish is not completely vegetarian as it contains fish sauce and oyster sauce. These two ingredients are pretty much added to every stir fry that we cook. Oysters symbolize good fortune and luck, so it can add to the goodwill of the dish even if it is not vegetarian. To make this dish completely vegetarian, you can use vegetarian oyster sauce which is a concentrate of mushroom flavours, usually from oyster or shiitake mushrooms.
Buddha’s Delight can contain up to 20 ingredients with each ingredient providing a symbolic meaning due to the way it looks or is pronounced. For example - bamboo shoots = wealth and new beginnings, cabbage = prosperity, noodles = longevity, black moss = wealth, shiitake mushrooms = opportunity, dried bean curd = blessings to the house, fried bean curd = gold, snowpeas = unity, carrots = good luck. So the more ingredients you add, the more symbolic the dish can become. But it’s good to keep it simple and have just a few ingredients so that the dish will have texture and subtle, delicate flavours. Be aware that each ingredient adds a flavour to the dish and if you add too many, I think that it just clouds it. I apply my principle of not bastardising a stir fry here.
My family always cook a big batch of Buddha’s Delight, enough to feed the whole family, plus some leftovers. It’s great to have the next day as the flavours are more developed.
Serves - enough to for a family of 5 with some leftovers
Quantity - a wokful
• 1 Chinese cabbage, leaves washed and sliced into 5-6cm pieces
• 8 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes till reconstituted, stalks discarded and sliced (reserve the soaking water)
• 3-4 dried bean curd sticks, break into 3-4cm pieces and soak in water for 15-20 minutes till softened
• box of fried bean curd/tofu (box had 6 pieces which I sliced into 6ths)
• 3 garlic cloves, sliced
• 3-4 slices of ginger
• 1 cup of bamboo shoots (I used canned bamboo shoots)
• 1 cup of baby corn, each corn sliced in half
• ½ cup of dried black fungus (wood ear mushrooms), soaked in water for 10-15 minutes till reconstituted and sliced
• handful of dried bean thread noodles, soaked in water for 20 minutes till softened, drain thoroughly
• ¼ cup of dried black moss (fat choy), washed, soaked in water for 5-10 minutes till softened, drain thoroughly
• Optional - handful of oyster mushrooms
This is how you should slice the leaves of the Chinese cabbage.
Dried bean curd
Black moss aka fat choy
(I added in the seasonings as I was cooking and adjusted until I got the desired taste, measurements below are a guide)
• 2-3 tablespoons of fish sauce
• 3-4 tablespoons of oyster sauce
• 1-2 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine
• 1-2 teaspoons of light soy sauce
• ½ teaspoons of sesame oil
• pinch of sugar, salt and ground white pepper to taste
Heat up a wok, add in some oil and fry the garlic and ginger first until fragrant then add in shiitake mushrooms and fry until slightly brown (1-2 minutes).
Stir frying shittake with garlic and ginger
Add in the black fungus, baby corn, bamboo shoots and oyster mushrooms and stir fry together (1-2 minutes), add in a little of the soaking water from the shiitake mushrooms if it gets too dry.
Adding black fungus, baby corn, bamboo shoots and oyster mushrooms - everything looks golden yellow. Yellow symbolises good luck in Chinese.
Then add in all the cabbage and fry all together. Add in the rest of the soaking water from the shiitake mushrooms. At this point you can cover the wok with a lid to help the cabbage soften and cook or just continue stir frying until the cabbage softens (5-10 minutes). Throughout the cooking process, you can add a little more water (½ - 1 cup) if necessary, but not too much as the cabbage will release water.
Adding Chinese cabbage - don't worry if it looks like it will overflow as the cabbage will shrink as it cooks.
Then add in seasonings of fish sauce, oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, salt and ground white pepper to taste.
Add in the fried bean curd/tofu, stir everything together and simmer until tofu is heated through (5 minutes).
Add in the bean thread noodles and black moss, stir fry all together until the noodles cook through and soak up the sauce (2 minutes).
Optional - Thicken the sauce with some cornflour mixed with a little water, if necessary (ie: there is too much liquid). Generally you won’t need to thicken the sauce as the bean thread noodles will soak up the sauce.
Serve with steamed rice.