|Alternative names||Luóhàn zhāi, lo han jai, lo hon jai, Luóhàn cài|
|Place of origin||China|
|Main ingredients||various edible plants and fungi, soy sauce|
|Cookbook: Buddha's delight Media: Buddha's delight|
|Traditional Chinese||羅漢齋 or 齋|
|Simplified Chinese||罗汉斋 or 斋|
|Literal meaning||Luohan vegetarian food|
Buddha's delight, often transliterated as Luóhàn zhāi, lo han jai, or lo hon jai, is a vegetarian dish well known in Chinese and Buddhist cuisine. It is sometimes also called Luóhàn cài (simplified Chinese: 罗汉菜; traditional Chinese: 羅漢菜).
The dish is traditionally enjoyed by Buddhist monks who are vegetarians, but it has also grown in popularity throughout the world as a common dish available as a vegetarian option in Chinese restaurants. The dish consists of various vegetables and other vegetarian ingredients (sometimes with the addition of seafood or eggs), which are cooked in soy sauce-based liquid with other seasonings until tender. The specific ingredients used vary greatly both inside and outside Asia.
In the name luóhàn zhāi, luóhàn – short for Ā luóhàn (simplified Chinese: 阿罗汉; traditional Chinese: 阿羅漢; pinyin: Ā LuóHàn) – is the Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit arhat, meaning an enlightened, ascetic individual or the Buddha himself. Zhāi (simplified Chinese: 斋; traditional Chinese: 齋; pinyin: zhāi) means "vegetarian food" or "vegetarian diet."
The dish is usually made with at least 10 ingredients, although more elaborate versions may comprise 18 or even 35 ingredients. If 18 ingredients are used, the dish is called Luóhàn quánzhāi (simplified: 罗汉全斋; traditional: 羅漢全齋).
In China and Hong Kong, when served exclusively using only the most flavor-packed vegetarian ingredients, such as pickled tofu or sweet bean curds, it is known as tián suān zhāi (simplified Chinese: 甜酸斋; traditional Chinese: 甜酸齋; pinyin: tian2 suan1 zhai1; literally "sweet and sour vegetarian dish").
As suggested by its name, it is a dish traditionally enjoyed by Buddhists, but it has also grown in popularity throughout the world as a common dish available in Chinese restaurants (though often not including all of the ingredients) as a vegetarian option. It is traditionally served in Chinese households on the first day of the Chinese New Year, stemming from the old Buddhist practice that one should maintain a vegetarian diet in the first five days of the new year, as a form of self-purification. Some of the rarer ingredients, such as fat choy and arrowhead, are generally only eaten at this time of year.
The following is a list of ingredients often used in Buddha's delight, each of which, according to Chinese tradition, is ascribed a particular auspicious significance. As the dish varies from chef to chef and family to family, not every ingredient is always used in every version of the dish.
Commonly used main ingredients
- Arrowhead (慈菇; pinyin: cí gū)
- Bamboo fungus (竹笙, pinyin: zhúshēng or 竹荪; pinyin: zhúsūn)
- Bamboo shoots (simplified: 笋; traditional; 筍; pinyin: sǔn)
- Bean curd sticks (腐竹; pinyin: fǔ zhú; also called "tofu bamboo")
- Black mushrooms (冬菇; pinyin: dōnggū)
- Carrot (traditional: 胡蘿蔔; simplified: 胡萝卜, pinyin: hú luóbo; or traditional: 紅蘿蔔; simplified: 红萝卜, pinyin: hóng luóbo)
- Cellophane noodles (粉絲; pinyin: fěn sī; also called "bean threads")
- Daylily buds (金针; pinyin: jīnzhēn; also called "golden needles")
- Fat choy (traditional: 髮菜; simplified: 发菜; pinyin: fàcài; a black hair-like cyanobacteria)
- Ginkgo nuts (traditional: 銀杏; simplified: 银杏, pinyin: yín xìng; or 白果, pinyin: bái guǒ)
- Lotus seeds (蓮子; pinyin: liánzǐ)
- Napa cabbage (大白菜; pinyin: dà báicài)
- Peanuts (花生; pinyin: huāshēng)
- Snow peas (traditional: 荷蘭豆; simplified: 荷兰豆; pinyin: hélándòu)
- Fried tofu (炸豆腐; pinyin: zhá dòufǔ)
- Water chestnuts (traditional: 荸薺; simplified: 荸荠; pinyin: bíqí)
- Fried or braised wheat gluten (traditional: 麵筋, simplified: 面筋; pinyin: miàn jīn)
- Wood ear (木耳; pinyin: mù ěr; also called black fungus)
Less commonly used main ingredients
- Bean sprouts (豆芽, pinyin: dòu yá; 芽菜, pinyin: yá cài; or 银芽, pinyin: yín yá)
- Bracken fern tips (蕨菜; pinyin: jué cài)
- Bok choy (白菜; pinyin: báicài)
- Cauliflower (菜花; pinyin: cài huā)
- Chinese celery (芹菜; pinyin: qín cài)
- Other types of fungus, including cloud ear fungus (traditional: 雲耳; simplified: 云耳; pinyin: yún ěr), elm ear fungus (榆耳; pinyin: yú ěr), osmanthus ear fungus (桂花耳; pinyin: guíhuā ěr), snow fungus (银耳; pinyin: yín ěr), and yellow fungus (黃耳; pinyin: huáng ěr; literally "yellow ear") See also: List of Chinese mushrooms and fungi.
- Red jujubes (traditional: 紅棗; simplified: 红枣; pinyin: hóng zǎo)
- Lotus root (藕; pinyin: ǒu)
- Other types of mushrooms, including straw mushrooms (草菇, pinyin: cǎo gū), oyster mushrooms (平菇, pinyin: píng gū), and Tricholoma mushrooms (口蘑, pinyin: kǒu mó)
- Dried oysters (蠔豉; pinyin: háo shì)
- Potato (马铃薯; pinyin: mălíng shǔ)
- Quail eggs (鹌鹑蛋; pinyin: ān chún dàn)
- Shrimp (traditional: 蝦; simplified: 虾; pinyin: xiā)
- Cornflower buds
- Baby corn
- Chinese cooking wine (黃酒; pinyin: huáng jiǔ)
- Garlic (大蒜; pinyin: dà suàn)
- Ginger (simplified: 姜; traditional: 薑; pinyin: jiāng)
- Monosodium glutamate (味精; pinyin: wèijīng)
- Oil (usually peanut, 花生油; and/or sesame, 芝麻油)
- Oyster sauce (simplified: 蚝油; traditional: 蠔油; pinyin: háo yóu)
- Pickled tofu (豆腐乳; pinyin: dòufu rǔ; both red and white)
- Salt (traditional: 鹽; simplified: 盐; pinyin: yán)
- Soy sauce (老抽; pinyin: lǎochōu)
- Starch (淀粉; pinyin: diànfěn)
- Sugar (糖; pinyin: táng)
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