Buddah's Delight

Thursday, September 01, 2011

food painting for the vegetarian cookbook by Fiona Morgan
Leisurely. Versatile. Unusual. Hearty. 


Food painting artwork

30 x 30cm acrylic on paper. The paper is no ordinary paper, it is textured Hahnemuhle 300 gsm 100% alpha cellulose which is acid-free fibre of vegetable origin. A high quality paper, made to last for generations.

The symbol in this artwork is based on an ancient Chinese lotus charm. The buddah and the lotus are closely connected and I like that the hidden meaning of the charm, continuous harmony, is a suitable sentiment for the celebration of the end of winter and the beginning of a new year that this dish is traditionally served at.

From the charm website, "In Buddhism, the lotus represents purity and detachment from worldly cares because of the dignified manner in which it emerges from the muck of a pond.

Because the Buddha is often depicted as seated on a lotus, the lotus is considered a sacred Buddhist symbol (one of Eight Auspicious Symbols) representing purity and detachment from worldly cares.

The Chinese word for lotus is lianhua or hehua. Lian is also the pronunciation of the word for continuous and he is also the pronunciation for the word harmony so the lotus has the hidden meaning of "continuous harmony"

Did you know that all the food painting artwork is available to own in the Official Art Store?  If you want to get your mitts on the original, it is drying and awaiting it's professional photoshoot before being allowed in the shop.

To be kept updated on available paintings and other happenings of interest, put yourself on the mailing list, yellow box top left.


The meatless meals recipe

On the first day of Chinese New Year (a variable date in January or Febuary) it is traditional to cook this vegetarian dish. Chinese New Year is meant to mark the end of winter, so as it's officially the first day of spring here in southern hemisphere Australia, this recipe is quite appropriate. 

Buddah's Delight goes by quite a few names and a vast array of ingredients. I'll get to that bit.  You may have heard of it as Monks Vegetables. Or maybe as Lo Han Zai or Zai Choi.

As I mentioned, the ingredients are widely varied. I find this dish is as much about sampling different textures together as it is about taste. All the textures are bound together by the flavoured sauce. The sauce varies a lot too. Many recipes use a fermented tofu product as the base of the sauce which some people find nauseating, myself included. It's also a bit tricky to find. Many recipes use a heavily soy sauce based sauce, which I found to be just plain salty and one dimensional. This version uses a modified soy sauce base with heaps more flavour added in and easy on the salt. You should be able to get all the ingredients at your supermarket too.

And the last note is that this dish tastes best if at least half of the ingredients are fresh. In other words, minimise the tofu, starch, lotus, noodles, lilybuds and waterchestnut and maximise the vegetables.

Sauce base:
4 cloves garlic, sliced
sesame oil
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup dry or medium dry sherry
1 1/2 - 2 cups stock (water from rehydrating the shitake mushrooms is good here)

Recommended ingredients:
bamboo shoots
shitake mushroom (fresh or rehydrated)
1 carrot, sliced
lotus root slices
chinese cabbage, shredded fine (2 handfuls or more)
snowpeas, whole
water chestnut
wood ear / black fungus mushroom (fresh or rehydrated, remove the hard bits, half a handful is enough, this expands a lot)

Additional ingredients:
bean sprouts
dried sticks of bean curd
glass noodles (half a handful is enough)
dried lilybuds
gingko nuts or peanuts or cashews
small cubes of fried tofu puffs
other mushroom

Get a big pot out for this. No, bigger.
Make the sauce base:
Fry the garlic on medium heat until golden in sesame oil.
Remove from heat and add sugar, salt, hoisin, soy sauce and sherry. 
Put back on the heat and simmer until the sugar dissolves.
Time to add your ingredients:
Choose your ingredient selection according to your tastes and what you have available to you. It's more about varied textures than a blend of flavoured ingredients.
Use one handful of each ingredient unless noted. 
Add ingredients one at a time, starting with the one that will take the longest to cook.
Braise each for a few minutes before adding the next until all of them are done.
Add stock as required.

Feeds 4-8 depending on the number of ingredients used. It's a bit of a banquet. Serve on a little rice.


More vegetarian cookbook goodies

Need help with cooking conversions? Download this handy dandy pdf of cooking conversion charts for every cooking measuring system I could find. It should make your life easier.

Where are the rest of the vegetarian dinner recipes? They're all in the Table of Contents.

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