During Chinese New Year, we’d have plenty of delicious snacks, desserts and great meals, including lots of meat, like chicken, pork, duck and fish - you name it, you have it. On the first day of Chinese New Year, my mother used to follow the Chinese tradition and prepare a vegetarian dish. It’s cooked in a large amount and kept in a large pot. Whenever a lunch or dinner is set on our table during Chinese New Year, this vegetarian dish would be served as a side dish as well.
It seems to be a long, old tradition of having a meatless dish eaten on the first day of every lunar year. Some religious beliefs might be the cause behind. I have no idea of how this tradition came into place. Every kid who is brought up in a Chinese family gets used to eat this vegetarian dish on that day. I eat this dish simply because I like the taste though. You can use any vegetables you like, and all the vegetables are cooked with red fermented beancurd, a creamy cheese-like delicacy which it’s seldom eaten on its own, often used as a marinade in Chinese cooking.
- 400 gm Chinese cabbage (紹菜/大白菜)
- 5 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 34 gm cellophane noodles (or glass noodles 粉絲)
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 2 sticks dried beancurd (枝竹)
- 4 fried tofu puffs (豆腐泡)
- 10 cloud ears (a kind of dried black fungus, 雲耳)
- 5 wood ears (a kind of dried black fungus, 木耳)
- 3 Tbsp red fermented beancurd (南乳 available at Asian grocers), mashed into paste
- 3 slices ginger
- 1 cup water (include mushroom soaking water)
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp cornflour
- 1/2 tsp water
- 1/2 tsp vegetable oil
- 2 tsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp cornflour
- 2 Tbsp water
- salt, to taste
- a dash sesame oil
- a pinch white pepper
- Soak shiitake mushrooms, cloud ears, wood ears, beancurd sticks and cellophane noodles in water until softened.
- Save the soaking water for mushrooms. Trim the mushrooms and cut into two halves if they are too big. Mix with marinade and steam in a wok for 20 minutes over high heat. Set aside.
- Trim cloud ears and wood ears, remove the hard stems. Cut tofu puffs into two halves. Blanch cloud ears, wood ears and tofu puffs in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain well. Rinse Chinese cabbage and cut into sections about 4cm in length.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or claypot over medium-low heat. Saute ginger until aromatic. Add red fermented beancurd paste and stir constantly, until fragrant. Toss in Chinese cabbage, increase heat to high. Add carrot, mushrooms, cloud ears, wood ears, beancurd sticks and 1 cup of water (include the mushroom soaking water). Cover and cook until all ingredients turn soft, stir occasionally. Check the water and replenish, if necessary, with boiling water.
- Add cellophane noodles, stir and cook until softened. Pour in thickening and cook to your preferred consistency. Serve hot.
- Cellophane noodles would absorb lots of water when cooking, add more water if needed.
- I used to marinate shitake mushrooms, then steam them before cooking with other ingredients. By using this method, the texture of mushrooms would turn to be tender and smoother. I learn this trick from my mother. She cooks every dish of shitake mushrooms with fabulous taste.