Mommy’s Lo Han Jai (Buddha’s Delight)
Happy Chinese New Year! Traditionally, the first meal of the new year is vegetarian to counteract the excessive feasting from the night before and to cleanse the body. Growing up, my mom would prepare lo han jai on new year’s eve, and each member of the family will have it for breakfast the following day. While there are so many rich and succulent foods served during the new year, this dish–subtle in its flavors, but bursting with textures–is one of my favorites. If you are not too familiar with Chinese foods, some ingredients here may appear foreign, but they should be available at your nearest Chinese grocery store.
Mommy’s Lo Han Jai
- 14 shiitake mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon tapioca flour or corn starch
- 2 sticks dried bean curd
- 1 piece lotus root, peeled and sliced into 1 cm thick discs
- ½ tablespoon white vinegar
- 1.76 oz mung bean vermicelli noodles
- 1 ounce black moss
- 1 ounce cloud ear
- 14 medium-sized napa cabbage leaves, chopped
- 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and smashed
- 10 pieces fried tofu, cut in half
- 1/4 cup Chinese shaoxing rice wine
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoon sesame oil
- 1/3 cup vegetarian oyster sauce
Overnight: Soak the shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of hot water with the tapioca flour mixed in. To keep the mushrooms submerged, sit a smaller bowl on top. Soak the dried bean curd and cloud ear in warm water.
The day of: Soak the slices of lotus root in a bowl of water with the white vinegar mixed in, and set aside. (The vinegar prevents the lotus roots from oxidizing, and thus browning.)
Soak the mung bean noodles and black moss in warm water. Set aside. Drain the mushroom from the water, and de-stem. Drain the bean curd from the water, and cut into 2-inch pieces. Drain the cloud ear from the water, and cut into smaller pieces.
Heat the pan (or wok) on medium high heat, and add vegetable oil. Add the smashed ginger, then the napa cabbage. Stir occasionally, until the cabbage begins to soften. Transfer ginger and cabbage onto a plate, set aside.
Drain water from the slices of lotus root. Re-oil the pan. Add the lotus root slices in a single layer. And cook until they darken slightly in color. Flip them over, and cook for a couple more minutes. Transfer onto the plate with the cabbage.
Re-oil the pan. Add a few dashes of salt, and allow the salt to simmer in the oil for a minute. Add the bean curd and shiitake mushrooms. Pour in the rice wine. Stir-fry for three minutes. Add the wood ear, black moss, mung bean noodles, and dried tofu. Stir-fry for another couple of minutes.
Add the soy sauce, sesame oil and vegetarian oyster sauce. Mix in the sauces. Toss the napa cabbage and lotus root back into the pan. Stir-fry for a couple minutes. Add salt to taste.
Serves 8 (as part of a Chinese meal)