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What Is Buddha's Delight?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated May 16, 2024
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Buddha’s delight is a dish traditional to Chinese cuisine which is now growing in popularity around the world. It is made up of different vegetables simmered in soy sauce or similar sauces. The Chinese name in Roman characters might be written luohan zhai.

Chinese food experts reveal that the origin of buddha’s delight was as a staple of Buddhist monks who were practicing vegetarianism. On today’s global and cosmopolitan Chinese menus, buddha’s delight appeals to many people around the world who are practicing a vegetarian lifestyle. It’s interesting to note that in the context of this dish, vegetarianism was traditionally seen as an enlightened practice, one that was practiced by the elite of a society. Today, vegetarianism is often a health-based or ethical stance. Some who enjoy this dish pointing out that buddha’s delight is now also often enjoyed on Chinese holidays like New Year’s day.

Various kinds of vegetables can be used in buddha’s delight. Some of the principal ones are onions, peppers, and snow peas. Another common vegetable ingredient is something that’s called by different names, including Napa cabbage or bok choi.

Carrots and water chestnuts are also common additions to buddha’s delight. This dish might also include different kinds of mushrooms including some of the darker varieties native to parts of China. Other similar recipes include bamboo shoots or the small ornamental ears of corn seen in many forms of cosmopolitan Chinese cuisine.

Other common elements in this dish include ginger, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Additional flavorings can include alcohol or vegetable stock. Meat stock is rarely used in buddha’s delight, since that would defeat the purpose of using only vegetarian ingredients. However, some of these dishes do include an element called MSG (monosodium glutamate) that is one of the more controversial aspects of global Chinese cooking.

In addition to all of the above, cooks may use various nonmeat alternatives in this sort of dish. These can include bean curd, which is a common vegetable element in some forms of Chinese cooking. Other recipes might include tofu or tempeh, two vegetarian processed foods that often replace meat in various dishes.

Generally, the buddha’s delight does not require a lot of complex cooking. Cooks must peel the vegetables and cut them into bite-size pieces. The dish may be made in a wok or large pan. The vegetable elements are often fried in oil before being mixed with sauces.

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