Thursday, May 18, 2006

Buddha's Delight: Recipe

For years I've seen these packets of dried vegetables at Asian groceries. I've always been curious about them, but never knew quite what to do with them. Inside the package is an intriguing mix of dried vegetables and pasta. They vary from pack to pack and from brand to brand, but usually they include something along the lines of: dried bean thread noodles, shitake mushrooms, dried seaweed, dried bean curd, dried red dates, lily buds, and dried tree ear mushrooms.

Thanks to a recent purchase of the book Florence Lin's Chinese Vegetarian Cookbook at the incomparable Strand Bookshop in New York City, I finally figured it out. The vegetables are the perfect, convenient mix for lots of Chinese dishes and soups that call for a mix of dried vegetables, but especially Buddha's Delight... It's a convenient way for the home cook to buy a little bit of each dried vegetable, without having to rush around the store, buying little amounts of each dried vegetable. The best part of all is that the packet of mixed dried veggies usually cost just around a dollar.

PS If the mix of dried veggies and seaweed sounds a little wierd to you, don't worry. The end product does not end up looking or tasting at all odd or strange. It looks and tastes exactly like the Buddha's Delight you'd get from your favorite Chinese takeout. Delicious and definitely not scary. Even Jeff who HATES mushrooms and sometimes turns up his nose at some of the wierd things I get from Asian markets LOVED this dish! Try it out. The following recipe is adapted from Florence Lin's Chinese Vegetarian Cooking.

Fermented bean curd is bean curd soaked in salt, spices, wine and water. It is very soft and is used to flavor dishes. The dish can be made without it if you're having trouble finding the fermented bean curd.

Buddha's Delight

1 pack of assorted dried vegetables (as pictured)*
Vegetable oil (such as peanut or corn)
1/2 cup peeled sliced carrot
1/2 cup sliced bamboo shoots

1/2 cup baby corn, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 cups cabbage sliced
1/2 cup sliced "mock meat" such as seitan (optional)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp fermented bean curd
1 Tbsp sesame oil

1. Separate the dried vegetables as best you can and place them in separate bowls.

2. Pour very hot water over the vegetables just to cover and allow them to soak for twenty minutes. The dried tofu will probably take longer and may even need to be boiled in a saucepan on the stove for a while to soften completely.

3. Drain the vegetables, reserving just the water the mushrooms soaked in. Cut off and discard the stems of the mushrooms and cut each mushroom in quarters. Cut any other remaining vegetables into bite-sized pieces.

4. Mix together the mushroom soaking water, the salt sugar and soy sauce, along with enough water to total 1 1/2 cups.

4. Heat your wok over high heat until it's very hot. Add a few Tbsp of oil the stir-fry the cabbage, bamboo shoots, carrot and corn for about 3 minutes. Remove them from the wok.

5. Heat another few Tbsp of oil in the wok then add all your dried vegetables. Stir fry for two minutes.

6. Add the "mock meat," if using and the cooked cabbage mixture. Stir.

7. Pour the soy sauce-mushroom water mixture into the wok. Mix well and lower the heat to medium-low.

8. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.

9. Add the fermented bean curd and sesame oil. Mix well. Serve very hot over rice.

* Packages and brands vary, but look for one that seems to contain some dried bean thread noodles, dried tofu sticks, dried mushrooms, and dried tree ear or cloud mushrooms. Lily buds, red dates, gingko nuts, and other dried vegetables often round out the mix.


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