During Chinese New Year, a lot of preparations are made to ensure we get the best of what fate has to offer. In other words, we are mortals trying to control our luck. However, all the incense, house sweeping, feng shui and couplets could not prevent me from becoming a victim during last Chinese New Year. In 2010, the Year of the Tiger, I knew something bad would happen to me. I, myself, am a tiger, and signs identical to the year are in for chaos. In 2010, the chaos was an email sent to me by my brother-in-law, Kelvin. I thought "what does this guy want again?". Some relatives are always trouble. Kelvin lives in the U.S. and he was sending his son Steve to stay with us in Hong Kong during the Chinese New Year weekend. Just like his father, Steve was a good person, but he was a troublesome klutz.
"Take care of him! That's my sister's son. You know how crazy she is about him!", my wife said. I cursed my bad fortune. I knew I should have put more money into those red envelopes. Picking him up from the airport, Steve appeared through the arrival walkway with a backwards cap, thick glasses, an unattended running nose, two suitcases and two backpacks. This guy will never get a girlfriend, I thought. The moment he shouted "Uncle Mo!" I knew his voice would not cease ringing in my head.
Once the Chinese New Year weekend came, I took Steve to the lantern festivals, watched the fireworks and let him mess around at the Tsim Sha Tsui area. When one of the street vendors fooled him into buying $5000 HK worth of cheap cologne, I decided to take Steve home. Since it was the same weekend my daughter was bringing her new boyfriend to the family for hot pot, I decided it was best to let Steve be occupied in our kitchen. But what could this clumsy guy make? I did not want him handling meat because he might do something foolish with it. Fortunately, I had an excuse for a vegeterian dish.
So, during last Chinese New Year's extended family dinner, Steve assisted me in the mandatory Chinese New Year vegeterian dish called the Buddah's Delight. In Hong Kong, this dish is required for the Chinese New Year. It is as important as Eight Precious Pudding or Tea Eggs. The ingredients symbolizes purity, with each vegetable serving a special symbol. Right now, just like I have taught my nephew Steve, we will go step-by -step in creating the Buddah's Delight at your home's kitchen.
1. BOILING YOUR VEGETABLES
- Chinese cabbage (Nappa)
- Black mushroom
- Dry oyster
You may wonder, what is an oyster doing in a vegetarian dish? In Eastern culture, the oyster is not considered a full animal by tradition Therefore, it is okay to use oysters. Cut the mushrooms, fungus, carrots and celery into modest pieces. Do not make too big. This will choke the eater. Using these pieces and along with the oysters, boil them in hot water for 3 minutes.
2. ADDING EVERYTHING ELSE
- Vegetable oil
- Red bean curd
Take the vegetables and oysters away from the water and put them in a large pan or wok. Add the teaspoons of vegetable oil so that it gives the vegetables flavor. Add the red bean curd, 2 pieces of ginger and stir-fry together with the vegetables. Do this for 3 more minutes.
3. COVERING IT UP WITH WATER
- Black Pepper
- Cornstarch mixed with some water
Add a 1/4 cup of water and cover up your large pan or wok for 1 minute. Stir-fry some more and add the salt, sugar, a bit of black pepper and watermixed corn starch.
There, you are finished. Enjoy the Buddha's Delight. It may be vegetarian but it is very delicious. If you want to add more ingredients, there are others which symbolize good luck. Depending on how much luck you want, add snow peas, lily buds, tofu, peanuts, black moss and bamboo. For what we used, the carrots represent gold coins and wealth, the black mushrooms symbolize opportunities and the oyster symbolizes rewards from patience. The Buddha's Delight is very good for your inner chi.
When we were done, my family and I took Steve to our local temple at midnight. I lit numerous amounts of incense for good luck, while my nephew burned his thumbs trying to get them lit. My wife and daughter prayed for a good year, one free from any more chaos. The crowds were a big tidel wave of people. When my nephew broke free from our presence, I feared for his life. He could not survive more than half-an-hour in Hong Kong without something clumsy happening to him. We looked around and around, but the wave of people made it impossible to find him. He was not answering his cell phone. I quickly took some more incense and prayed the gods for his safety. I summoned the Buddah's Delight in my belly and hope he would be protected.
Not long after, my daughter's boyfriend saw him surrounded by a crowd of beggars. The silly fool had opened his heart and offered some money to a few homeless which caused many others to come to him like a magnet. I know he meant well, but this was a mistake in Hong Kong. When they had trapped him into a corner, Steve was screaming my name. My daughter's boyfriend and I flinged them out of the way and created a path for my naive nephew. The beggars started hounding us too, one clinging onto my back like a movie vampire. When Steve was brought to safety, I had one final thought to the gods above: Please, please, please take him away and back to America. Never again! He may be Chinese on the outside, but on the inside, he is an idiot!