Vesak Day (or ‘Buddha’s birthday’) is the celebration of the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha. It is on this day that devoted Buddhists and monks in many East and Southeast Asian countries could be seen congregating at Buddhist temples to make offerings and say their prayers. Devotees believe that doing good deeds on this day and performing observances relating to the teachings of Buddha are pertinent to accumulating merits in their life.
Eating vegetarian meals on this day is one of the many observances of the Buddhist community. One main school of thought explaining this observance is that animals should never be killed on their behalf and that human beings should refrain from taking any form of life. However, the strictness of this teaching varies depending on whether they were derived from the Theravada or Mahayana perspective, as well as from where the believers originate. For instance, some Theravada Buddhists in South Asia are obliged to accept all food offerings handed to them, including meat.
Personally, I am a free-thinker who delight myself in learning from (and about) the practices of the different worldly religions. This I do most frequently through the various food and culinary practices. For Vesak Day this year, I have decided to make a vegetarian dish – Buddha’s Delight – to celebrate the holy occasion in Singapore. I hope that everyone, regardless of religion, will enjoy the bright colours, freshness and sesame fragrance of this dish as much as I did.
- Oil: 4 tbsp
- Napa cabbage: 1 medium-sized, sliced
- Dried mushroom: 20, soaked in water for 1 hr, drained and sliced
- Lily bud: 60g, soaked in water, drained
- Carrot: 3, peeled and sliced
- Dried beancurd stick: 100g, soaked in water, drained
- Snow pea: 100g, fibrous strings along stalks removed
- Vegetarian braised gluten: 2 cans (280g each), including gravy
- Gingko nut: 1 can (397g), water discarded
- Vegetarian oyster sauce: 6 tbsp
- Sugar: 2 tsp
- Water: 1 cup
- Dark soy sauce: 2 tbsp
- Light soy sauce: 2 tbsp
- Cellophane noodles (dong fen): 250g
- White pepper: 1/2 tsp
- Corn flour mixture: 2 tbsp corn flour + 1 tbsp water
- Fat choy (发菜): 1 piece (about 5 x 5 cm), optional
- Sesame oil: 3 tbsp
- Heat oil in wok.
- Fry cabbage till softened.
- Stir in mushrooms, lily buds, carrots, beancurd sticks, snow peas, gluten and gingko.
- Leave to simmer for 2 min.
- Mix gluten gravy in can with oyster sauce, sugar, water, dark soy sauce and light soy sauce.
- Stir gravy mixture into vegetables in wok. Leave to simmer for 8 min.
- Add in noodles. Stir to mix evenly.
- Add pepper. Then stir in corn flour mixture.
- Add fat choy and sesame oil. Stir briefly to mix before serving.
- The typical ingredients used in this dish are cabbages, carrots, beancurd sticks, mushrooms and gluten. You could also replace them with other ingredients and vegetables according to your preferences such as baby corns, bamboo shoots and black fungus.
12 – 15 persons (1 large tray, as side or main dish)