Learn how to make the classic vegetarian Buddha’s delight the way you want it by customizing the veggies and protein to your liking. Perfect as weeknight meal or as Chinese New Year dish.
CHINESE VEGETABLE DELIGHT (LUO HAN ZHAI)
This dish is named as such because it’s typically enjoyed by Buddhist monks and Buddhist around the world. They are vegetarians and consists of various types of vegetables and non-animal source protein. You will see it written as lo han jai, or luo han zhai, or lo hon jai, and pretty much the same thing. I grew up in a Buddhist family and mom brought me to a Buddhist temple often. On special days, such as Vesak day, this particular temple that we went to often, offered free lunch for everyone who visited. Buddha’s delight was one of the dishes that I have seen often in the temple.
VEGETABLES USED IN BUDDHA’S DELIGHT
Lo han jai can be made as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be. You can use as few as 2 veggies to 10 or more different type of veggies. Commonly used veggies are:
Mushrooms: Wood ear mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms
Daylily buds (Kim Ciam)
Fat Choy (Black moss)
PROTEIN USED IN BUDDHA’S DELIGHT
Chinese braised wheat gluten (Chai Pow Yu)
Fried tofu puffs
THIS SIMPLE LO HAN JAI RECIPE
This recipe uses beancurd sticks, shiitake mushrooms, napa cabbage, bok choy, bean thread noodles, pan-fried tofu, bamboo shoots, and daylily buds
LO HAN JAI SAUCE
The sauce is made with very simple ingredients like soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and salt. Since this is a vegetarian dish, we usually do not use popular Chinese sauce such as oyster sauce in this dish. If you are making non-vegetarian version, then you are certainly welcome to add oyster sauce to it.
HOW TO MAKE SIMPLE VEGETARIAN LO HAN JAI
1. Preheat the wok/skillet
This is always a must.
2. Add oil and stir fry the aromatics
Once the wok/skillet is hot, add cooking oil and start stir frying the aromatics
3. Add the bamboo shoots, daylily buds, shiitake mushrooms, dried beancurd slices and stir fry for about 3 minutes
4. Add the bottom tough part of Napa cabbage, bok choy and pour in the vegetable stock or water and cover with a lid to let it cook for another 3 minutes
5. Uncover the lid and add the tender leaves of Napa cabbage, pan-fried tofu, and seasonings. Stir to mix everything
6. Have a taste. The extra liquid will continue to be absorbed by the bean thread noodles
This simple vegetarian lo han jai is one of our family’s favorite stir-fry dishes. My son loves bamboo shoots and the beancurd slices.
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For baking/ kueh making: I highly encourage to weigh ingredients with a digital kitchen scale instead of using measuring cups as they are not very accurate especially when it comes to recipe that requires precision.GRAMS TO CUPS CONVERSION (UNSIFTED)
- 8 dried beancurd slices - soak in warm water for 30 minutes
- 450 gr extra firm tofu
- 2 cloves garlic - finely minced
- 1 inch fresh ginger - peeled and thinly sliced
Prepare the veggies:
- Separate the bottom half of Napa cabbage (which is more firm) from the tender leaves. Cut them into smaller chunks and keep them separate. Separate the bok choy into the individual stalk and set aside
Pan-fry the tofu:
- Place an absorbent paper towel on a chopping board. Place tofu on top and line with another absorbent paper towel. Press the tofu with a heavy object for 15-20 minutes to squeeze out more liquid. You'll be surprised by how much liquid is in an extra firm tofu
- Cut the tofu into the size you like. Pan fry with about 1 Tbsp of cooking oil until golden brown on all sides. Set aside
- Preheat wok or large skillet on high heat. Add 1 Tbsp cooking oil. Swirl to coat the bottom and sides of the wok or skillet. Add garlic and ginger and stir fry until aromatic, about 1 minute
- Add the bamboo shoots, daylily buds, shiitake mushrooms, dried beancurd slices and stir fry for about 3 minutes
- Add the bottom part of Napa cabbage, bok choy, and pour in 1/2 cup of the vegetable stock or water. Cover with a lid and let it cook for another 3 minutes
- Uncover the lid and add the tender Napa cabbage leave, tofu slices, bean thread noodles, and seasonings. Stir to mix everything. Have a taste and add more soy sauce and a bit more sugar if needed. It should taste savory with just a hint of sweetness
- Don't worry about the extra liquid as the bean thread noodles will continue to absorb all the liquid. Serve immediately with rice