On the first day of the Lunar New Year, my family always goes vegetarian. It is believed that eating vegetarian meals helps purify and cleanse the body and increase longevity for the New Year. This belief is inspired by our religious beliefs in Buddhism, while my family doesn’t practice this still has heavily influenced our culture, and come Lunar New Year, we all know to eats vegetarian on the first day!
Usually with Lunar New Year comes a flurry of activities, on the first day it’s expected that everyone visits their elders resulting in a very busy day. This was always an easy dish my mom would whip up at the end of the day on the first day of Lunar New Year after we’ve gone around to visit the other family members. It always reminds me of home and brings a certain comfort. However, you don’t need to wait until Lunar New Year to make it, it can be made any time in the year.
This recipe is part of our Special Edition Meal Planner dedicated to celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
- 6 -8 dried shiitake mushrooms, rinsed and cleaned
- 4 1/ 4 cups water, divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce (gluten-free if necessary)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/ 2 teaspoon sesame oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 head romaine lettuce, rinsed and cut into bite-size pieces
- 1/ 3 cup vegetable stock
To make the mushroom sauce:
In a medium container soak mushrooms in 2 cups boiling water, making sure there is enough water to completely cover mushrooms. Soak for 4 hours. Note: Alternatively, soak in cold water overnight for the best flavor.
Discard mushroom stems. Squeeze out as much liquid from mushrooms into the container as possible. Reserve mushroom water for later use. Set mushrooms aside to dry on a paper towel.
Heat olive oil in a large pot on high heat. Add garlic, cook until golden browned, 20-30 seconds. Add mushrooms, continue to cook for 3-5 minutes.
Strain mushroom water into pot along with an additional 2 cups of water. Bring pot to a boil on medium heat, reduce heat to low. Simmer mushrooms until reduced to about 2 cups, and the water no longer covers the mushrooms. Add 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce, continue to simmer. Note: Taste the broth if you feel you want more taste add 1 more tablespoon of oyster sauce.
In a small bowl, whisk together ¼ cup water, cornstarch, and sesame oil, until completely smooth.
Slowly pour cornstarch mixture into the pot. Continue to whisk until sauce has thickened and boiled for at least 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat.
To prepare the romaine lettuce:
In a large pan, on medium heat bring olive oil to a simmer.
Add garlic and cook until golden brown, 20- 30 seconds. Add lettuce and vegetable stock.
Cook until tender and liquid has reduced, 3-5 minutes, add in mushrooms and sauce.
Serve immediately with a drizzle of sesame oil.