This special vegetarian stir-fry dish is a popular festival dish, usually prepared to celebrate first day of Chinese New Year, the celebration of Cheng Beng, or any other cultural events. In our family, grandmother always had this for the children and grand children, but now, mother and aunties take turn preparing it. This week we were celebrating the Cheng Beng week by cooking a lot of grandmother’s favorite dishes and laying them out for praying. After the midday pray, we could all enjoy the dishes or send them out to those who couldn’t come. The usual chaotic yelling and screaming is expected, especially in the kitchen. This is the first time I learned the dish so I got yelled at quite a lot. They were quite persistent that all vegetables and dried items are to be cut the same size. You can certainly tell my cutting was everything but neat. Most families will have their own version of Luo Han Chay, but I can assure you that it is a 100 percent vegetarian dish, a Buddhist dish, so there will be no shallots and garlic. This is our version. Enjoy!
The recipe is enough to feed 4 households, so please adjust accordingly. The cooking method is rather straight forward, prepping work was overwhelming. It is the norm for the dish to have “8” in it, be it 8 ingredients, 8 slices of this, 8 slices of that. We tried to pull the 18 ingredients, but could only manage 12.
The ingredients were added as they were “remembered”. Isn’t it nice, that such important dish in Chinese tradition to be so forgiving? They would be like, oh we have this, or let’s dump this in there. Cabbage, black fungus (wood ear), dried shiitake, mung bean noodles, fried tofu, tofu skin (we got the freshly rolled tofu skin), lily buds, canned vegetarian peking duck, a couple of tomatoes and slices of carrot. Also Chinese green mustard (not shown here) were used. Other ingredients that can be added would be ginkyo nuts, red dates, napa cabbage, black moss, lotus seeds, etc.
The tofu skin were deep fried in deep hot oil for 5 minutes till golden and all crispy. Be careful of the hot splattering oil. It is bound to splatter. After frying, cut them into 5cm length.
The dried ingredients should be soaked in cold water for at least 3 hours in advance. Lily buds are to be tied into little knots and soaked. So do mushrooms, black fungus and mung bean noodles. When soft, drain water and set aside.