Buddha’s Delight

Buddha’s delight – also known as the world’s ultimate veggie stir fry – is quite the adventure for the palate. Named as such because it is a vegetarian dish, Buddha’s Delight is typically served on the first day of Chinese New Year as a part of the feast. It’s absolute proof that a dish can stand out and be packed full of flavour and texture without any meat, garlic or onions (all three of which are not usually used in Buddhist cookery).

One thing to note is that while Buddha’s Delight has many traditional ingredients – all with their own significance and meaning – it is just as possible to create your own (equally delicious!) version of it without hunting down too many uncommon ingredients. Though your neighbourhood Asian supermarket should easily have most, if not all of what you need, if you’re making this on a regular basis for an easy weeknight meal, you can easily add in, substitute, or leave out items you don’t have on hand. I personally am not a fan of bean curd sticks or braised wheat gluten, though both are very common traditionally.

Rehydrating the mushrooms and fungus takes several hours, so if you’re making this for dinner, it’s best to start the soak before you leave for work – they’ll be ready when you get home! Also make sure to rehydrate each of the ingredients in separate bowls. No matter what you do, try and use fresh or frozen ingredients, but not canned – waterlogged canned veggies wreck the bright texture and colour this dish is supposed to have on your plate!

Ingredients

• 3 slices fresh ginger

• 12–15 dried shiitake (black) mushrooms, rehydrated in 4 cups of hot water (reserve the liquid)

• 1/3 cup dried wood ears, rehydrated

• ½ cup white fungus, rehydrated and hard base trimmed

• ½ cup gingko nuts, peeled and shelled

• 250 g bamboo shoots, sliced thin (get these frozen and already trimmed, then thinly slice lengthwise)

• 500 g baby bok choy

• 300 g carrots, sliced thin on the bias

• 300 g baby corn

• 300 g snow peas

• 2 cups fresh bean sprouts

• ¼ cup oyster sauce

• ¼ cup shaoxing rice wine

• ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce

• 1 tsp sugar

Method

1. In a wok or large frying pan, over medium high heat, pour some vegetable oil followed by the ginger, letting it sauté until golden and fragrant – make sure it doesn’t burn.

2. Add the mushrooms, wood ears, white fungus, bamboo shoots, and gingko nuts and stir for 2–3 minutes.

3. Stir in the oyster sauce, rice wine, soy and sugar, followed by the bok choy, carrots and corn, and stir, simmering gently and reducing the heat to low

4. Pour in the reserved mushroom liquid and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes.

5. After bringing the heat back up to medium, mix in the snow peas and fresh bean sprouts, and add about ½ cup of water, stirring, and let it simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated (approximately 5–7 minutes).

6. Check the seasoning and adjust according to taste. Serve with steamed rice or Chinese vermicelli noodles (the latter of which you can stir directly into this dish) and enjoy hot!

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