Buddha’s Delight with Buckwheat Noodles

Sunday June 16, 2013


Over the centuries, a mixed vegetable stir fry in China picked up the name Buddha’s Delight memorializing the vegetarian observant Buddhist monks who ate it. Chinese food has wonderful metaphorical names for their dishes and it certainly grabs the attention of the diner.

The stir fry changes with the seasons, but contains a mixture of healthful fresh, dried, and preserved vegetables, sometimes up to 10 to 12 different ones. Buddha’s Delight is a Lunar New Year staple, served on a Sunday, since the ingredients symbolize luck and success.

The basis is usually Napa cabbage, also known as Chinese cabbage, which is ruffled and elongated; it has a milder flavor than regular head cabbage. Purely Chinese vegetables, such as fresh soybeans, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, lotus roots, and mung bean sprouts, are encouraged. When you can find fresh water chestnuts, do indulge, they are more tasty than the canned version. I also like broccolini, sort of a baby broccoli, and okra, a surprising very Chinese addition. Dried include black mushrooms, lotus seeds, fried wheat gluten (dao pok), Chinese red dates (jujubes),and ginkgo nuts.

While this recipe has the stir fry mixed with Japanese soba noodles, which are easily available, northern China is known for their vast repertoire of noodles made from barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, and rice, as well as wheat. Dried bean curd sticks and cellophane noodles are not unusual. You will use a steamer, especially nice for low-to-no-fat cookery, to make this dish.

Joyce Chen brand stove top stacked stainless steamer


Cooking Method: Stovetop

Cook Time: About 25 minutes

Makes 4 servings


  • 12-ounces buckwheat noodles (soba), or other noodles such as Italian linguine or fresh Chinese mein
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or 2 tablespoons thawed frozen apple juice concentrate
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
  • 2 pinches hot pepper flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • 1 large carrot, cut on the diagonal in 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 head broccoli or baby broccoli, broken into small florets
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut on the diagonal in 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 cup thawed frozen or fresh edamane
  • 1 sweet bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4-ounces snow peas, strings zipped and pods halved on the diagonal
  • 1/4 cup sliced water chestnuts or 1/2 cup canned whole baby corn, rinsed
  • 4-ounces fresh baby shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 to 3 cups chopped Napa cabbage
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions, for sprinkling
  • Asian sesame oil, for drizzling (optional)


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the soba. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente (tender but still firm, not overly soft), taking care not to overcook since they will get gummy. Drain well in a colander and rinse with hot water.
  1. the bamboo steamer-economical and efficient

  2. In a small saucepan, combine the broth, soy sauce, sugar, lemon, ginger, pepper flakes, and garlic. Whisk in the cornstarch. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir constantly until thickened, about 3 minutes, then stir in the sesame oil. Set aside and keep warm.
  3. Spray the steamer baskets with nonstick vegetable cooking spray or lay down some large cabbage leaves. In a large pan or wok with a steamer basket, or rice cooker with stacked steamers, fill the pan or rice cooker bowl 1/4 full of water or vegetable broth and cover. Bring the water or broth to a boil. Arrange the carrots, broccoli, squash, and edamane on the bottom tier of the steamer baskets. Arrange the pepper, snow peas, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and cabbage in the top tier.  Place the baskets over the boiling liquid and cover.  Set a timer and steam for 10 to 15 minutes. Check for doneness by piercing the carrot or broccoli with the tip of a knife. You want the vegetables tender, but not mushy.
  4. In a large serving bowl, warmed if possible, place the soba, then the vegetables, and pour over the sauce, tossing gently (with chopsticks if you like) to combine and evenly coat. Portion into individual shallow bowls and sprinkle with green onion. Pass the sesame oil for drizzling more on if you like.

Hamilton Beach, one of my favorite brands of countertop appliances AND digital

Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Weeknight Cooking, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2008, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2013

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

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