Buddhist Vegetarian Stew (Lo Han Jai)

buddhist vegetarian stew

This recipe is courtesy of Shirley Fong-Torres.

Watch Lidia Bastianich visit Shirley in San Francisco. Together they celebrate Chinese New Year, as part of Lidia Celebrates America: Holiday Tables & Traditions.

Lo han jai, also known as Buddhist vegetarian stew, is traditionally served on the first day of the lunar Chinese New Year, to cleanse the body. The traditional version calls for dried oysters, gingko nuts, dried mushrooms, and dried fungus, while this version uses more fresh ingredients.

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  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 fresh brown and/or white mushrooms (remove stems and slice caps)
  • 8 fresh Chinese water chestnuts (peel and quarter) or ½ cup fresh jicama, sliced
  • 1 carrot (peel and cut into julienne strips)
  • 2 cups Napa cabbage (torn into small strips)
  • 1 cup vegetarian broth
  • 1 cup firm tofu (bean cake) (cut to ½” cubes)
  • 8 snow peas or snap peas (remove strings and cut to thin slivers)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (low-sodium preferred)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed well with 2 teaspoons cold water
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Chinese parsley (cilantro) for garnish

  • Optional:
  • 2 ounces bean thread (cover with water and boil for 5 min, then drain)
  • ½ cup fresh tofu skin (yuba) (cut to bite-size pieces)
  • 2 cups fresh bean sprouts


  1. Heat wok until smoky.
  2. Add vegetable oil.
  3. Stir-fry mushrooms, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, carrot and cabbage, and cook for 3-4 minutes over high heat.
  4. Add broth.
  5. Cover and cook for 5 minutes over low heat.
  6. Add tofu, tofu skin, bean sprouts, snow peas and soy sauce.
  7. Cover and simmer for 2 minutes.
  8. Stir in cornstarch mixture to form a light gravy, adjusting if necessary.
  9. Drizzle with sesame oil and top with sprigs of fresh Chinese parsley.
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