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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Buddha's Delight - Luo Han Zai 罗汉斋

Luo Han Zai in Mandarin is basically the stir fried mixed vegetables in general, a well-known common vegetarian dish among the Chinese community. Known to some as the Buddha's delight, I think apart from Buddha himself, this probably is every vegetable lover's delight. Surely that makes me exactly one of those too. A vegetable lover I sure am, that I have always known, but to think that I have liked this plainly because it is a dish loaded with vegetables will be an understatement. All in all I think what really attracts me most about this dish is the well-elaborated presentation brought about by the many different ingredients found within the same one plate. No, this is not those 2 or 3 or 4-in-1 kind, but it is one of the few dishes that can easily manage to carry double the types of different ingredients used to say the least, yet not appearing to be too suffocating or complicated in the end. Personally, I think this is one of the few classic examples of how different ingredients when chosen right can really be mixed and matched in harmony - no one really stands out and no one really masks any others. And to top things off, a perfect serving of luo han zai requires only the minimal seasonings - the red fermented bean curd 南乳 and light soy sauce to taste.

napa cabbage, fried bean curd stick, glass noodle, wood ear fungus, fried tofu puff,
baby corn, enoki mushroom, shiitake mushroom, ginger, garlic and red fermented bean curd

Buddha's Delight - Luo Han Zai 罗汉斋 
Serves 4
10 leaves napa cabbage, rinsed and cut into 1½" sections, white parts and leaves separated
2 fried bean curd sticks, rehydrated in water in advance and cut into 2" sections
4oz glass noodles, soaked in warm water to soften
1 small handful wood ear fungus, rinsed and soaked to soften, hard ends trimmed off, the remaining torn into big pieces
5 fried bean curd puffs, rinsed under hot water to wash off oil then halved
6 stalks baby corns, halved
1 small pack enoki mushroom (about 5oz), trimmed
4 shiitake mushrooms, rinsed and soaked to soften then sliced thickly
1" ginger, cut into big chunks and crushed
3 cloves garlic, skin removed and crushed
4 cubes red fermented bean curd
light soy sauce to taste 
2/3 cup water
1 tbsp cooking oil

1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Bring in the glass noodles to cook for about a minute. This ensures that the glass noodle is at least partially cooked to begin with so that they will not end up absorbing all the gravy when added into the wok later. Drain well and set aside.
2. Heat up the cooking oil in a wok. Once hot, sauté garlic and ginger until fragrant and lightly browned. Add in the red fermented bean curd next. Smash them lightly with the back of the spatula and mix well.
3. Add in the white parts of the napa cabbage and fried bean curd sticks. Stir to mix well. Pour in half of the water, cover and let simmer for about a minute of two until they half softens. 
4. With that done, bring in the rest of the ingredients, leaving the glass noodle last. Pour in the remaining water. Stir to mix well and cover to let simmer for about 3 to 4 minutes until cooked. Add in light soy sauce to taste.
5. Finish by bringing in the glass noodles. Stir to mix everything well for half a minute more.
6. Dish out and serve hot.      


  1. Hi! Is it 2/3 cup of water in your recipe?

    1. Hi, thanks for pointing it out! It is indeed 2/3 cup of water. It doesn't have to be exact; it all depends on how dry or wet you want the dish to be. Also, I recently made this with more water, which I then added a little corn starch slurry right before serving to thicken the gravy up. I personally like this new version more now, so give it a try!


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