a bowl of jai
it's times like this that i wish i'd paid more attention to my mother when she tried to teach me about our culture and heritage. first of all, i don't really know how to cook chinese food. second, i don't know much about chinese food in general. apparently, there are some "symbolic" dishes. well, the ingredients in the dishes are symbolic of things, anyway, like happiness, long-life, fertility, etc. one of these dishes is jai, or buddha's delight. (as an aside, i grew up knowing this dish only as jai. it wasn't until later in life that i discovered that it was also known as buddha's delight. in researching this topic, and googling "buddha's delight", i discovered this
which i thought was quite amusing. if you've already seen it on my other blog, i apologize for repeating myself, but it's just too funny to mention just once.)
my mom used to make jai for us every so often, and later when i became a vegetarian, i realized just how good this dish is. it's sort of a stew of various ingredients including napa cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, bean threads, all manner of tofu (bean curd sheets, deep-fried tofu, pan-fried tofu), dried oysters, and possibly the most fun, hair moss, which is a freshwater algae that resembles, surprise, human hair. you can imagine the glee (or revulsion, depending on who you were) with which we ate this particular ingredient. the broth that is produced from cooking these ingredients together is thin and light, yet flavorful. i hate this word, but it's like "nectar" from these delicious ingredients. my mom also used to add fermented bean paste to give the dish more complexity.
now that my mom is gone, my dad has taken it upon himself to make jai for us. to be honest, it's not the same. it lacks the depth that my mom's had, and the flavor of tangerine peel is too over-powering. another thing is that his chunks of tofu are HUGE. don't get me wrong, i appreciate his effort. i just wish i'd paid attention to when my mom used to make it.