On Thanksgiving, everyone looks forward to the turkey. Valentine’s Day is the time for chocolate. During Chinese New Year, one of the most popular dish is one called jai, or Buddha’s Delight.
Jai is a vegetarian dish and is eaten on the first day of Chinese New Year to bring good luck. According to Buddhist tradition, no animal or fish should be killed on the first day of the lunar new year, thus, a dish with lots of vegetables is considered purifying.
While most of the ingredients are probably not available at your local grocery store, they can be found at Asian grocery stores in many parts of the country.
Want to try your hand at cooking jai? Here’s a good starter recipe from Vegetarian Recipes and Cooking website, reposted with their permission:
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, thinly sliced
2 dried bean curd sticks, soaked for 45 minutes in hot water to soften, cut into 1″ chunks
1/2 cup cellophane noodles, soaked in hot water until soft
6 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water until soft (reserve soaking liquid for sauce)
1 carrot, julienned
1/4 cup dried lily buds, soaked in hot water until soft
1 oz. dried fat choy (black “hair” moss), soaked in hot water until soft
1/4 cup canned ginkgo nuts, drained
1/4 cup canned lotus seeds, drained
1/2 cup napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1/4 cup peanuts, roasted
1/2 cup snow peas, julienned
1/2 cup fried tofu, cubed
1/4 cup fresh wood ear mushroom, cut into strips (or soak dried wood ears)
1/2 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup straw mushrooms
1/2 cup lotus root, thinly sliced
1/2 cup arrowroot (a starchy tuber), cooked and diced
1 TB peanut or vegetable oil
1/4 cup mushroom soaking liquid or vegetable stock
1.5 TB Shaoxing wine
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 TB vegetarian oyster sauce
1 TB light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp cornstarch
Directions: Heat 1 TB oil in wok or large pan over medium-high heat. Add bean curd sticks, cabbage, snow peas, mushrooms, and carrots and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Mix sauce ingredients in a bowl, stirring to dissolve cornstarch, and set aside. Add remaining ingredients, except cellophane noodles and peanuts, to wok, along with sauce, and stir to combine. Simmer until bubbly and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes, stir in cellophane noodles and peanuts, and serve.
Happy cooking! And Happy Chinese New Year!