One of the most popular Chinese New Year’s day dishes is particularly loaded with symbolism. According to a Buddhist practice, no animal or fish should be killed on the first day of the Lunar Year. Hence, believers usually opt for vegetables, going completely vegetarian for the day.
Over the year, it has become somewhat of a Chinese tradition. This dish, aptly named, “Buddha’s Delight” includes “purifying” vegetables such as mushrooms, lily buds, cabbages, carrots, etc. Every ingredient is chosen for their own special significance. Dare we say, it’s one of the yummiest vegetarian dishes in the history of Chinese cooking!
You will need:
4 dried Shiitake or Chinese black mushrooms
1/2 cup dried lily buds
4 dried bean curd sticks
8 ounces bamboo shoots
6 fresh water chestnuts
2 large carrots
1 cup shredded Napa cabbage
4 ounces snow peas
1/4 cup canned gingko nuts
1 knuckle of ginger, crushed
4 tablespoons reserved mushroom soaking liquid or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Vegetable or peanut oil for stir-frying, as needed
Salt, accent or MSG to taste
1. In separate bowls, soak the mushrooms, dried lily buds, and dried bean curd sticks in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes to soften. Squeeze out any excess liquid. Reserve the mushroom soaking liquid, straining it if necessary to remove any grit. Remove the stems and cut the mushroom tops in half if desired.
2. Slice the bamboo shoots. Peel and finely chop the water chestnuts. Peel the carrots, cut in half, and cut lengthwise into thin strips. Shred the Napa cabbage. String the snow peas and cut in half. Drain the gingko nuts. Crush the ginger.
3. Combine the reserved mushroom soaking liquid or vegetarian stock with the Chinese rice wine or sherry, dark soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil. Set aside.
4. Heat the wok over medium-high to high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil to the heated wok.
5. When the oil is hot, add the carrots. Stir-fry for 1 minute, and add the dried mushrooms and lily buds. Stir-fry for 1 minute, and add the water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, snow peas and ginger. Stir in the shredded cabbage and gingko nuts. Add the bean curd sticks.
6. Add the sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover, turn down the heat and let the vegetables simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and add salt or other seasonings as desired.
And it’s done! Remember to serve hot. Preferably with a bowl of rice. Yummy!