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Jai

(recipe, Ellen Leong Blonder & Annabel Low)

Introduction

Eaten on the first day of the Lunar New Year, this elaborate dish incorporates a wide selection of dried and fresh ingredients, all of which symbolize luck and success.

Ingredients

  1. 1 package (3½-ounces) bean-thread noodles
  2. 20 small dried black mushrooms
  3. ½ oz. cloud ears
  4. ½ cup tiger-lily buds
  5. 20 small dried jujubes (Chinese red dates)
  6. ½ oz. fat choy (black hair seaweed)
  7. ¼ cup dried lotus seeds
  8. ½ tsp. salt
  9. 1 tsp. plus 1 Tbsp. vegetable or peanut oil
  10. 1 piece ginger (about ½ inch)
  11. 8 to 12 dried oysters, soaked overnight in water to cover
  12. ¾ cup shelled ginkgo nuts
  13. 2 oz. dried bean-curd sticks (also called dried bean flour skins)
  14. 4 oz. snow peas, strings removed
  15. 8 to 10 oz. tofu, cut into ¾-inch dice
  16. 8 fresh or canned water chestnuts, peeled and sliced
  17. ¼ cup sliced bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained
  18. 4 to 8 fresh arrowheads, lightly scraped with stems intact
  19. 12 pieces dao pok (fried wheat gluten)
  20. 2 cups finely shredded Napa cabbage
  21. 1 Tbsp. red-bean curd
  22. 1 Tbsp. fermented bean curd
Seasoning mixture
  1. 3 cups water
  2. 1 Tbsp. sugar
  3. 4 tsp. oyster sauce
  4. 1 Tbsp. soy sauce

Steps

  1. Soak the bean-thread noodles in water for 2 hours.
  2. Put the mushrooms in a small bowl with hot water. Let stand 30 to 45 minutes to soften. Cut and discard the stems. Rinse the caps, squeeze dry, and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices.
  3. Put the cloud ears, tiger-lily buds, jujubes, fat choy, and lotus seeds in separate bowls, add hot water to cover, and soak for 30 minutes. Rinse the cloud ears well, drain, and cut out and discard any hard parts. Rinse and drain the tiger-lily buds and cut off the hard ends. Drain the jujubes.
  4. Rinse the fat choy and put it in a small saucepan with the salt, 1 tsp. of the oil, the ginger, and water to cover. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat, and let stand 10 minutes. Drain the fat choy and gently squeeze out the water.
  5. Open the lotus seeds and discard the bitter green parts inside. Put the lotus seeds in a small saucepan with water to cover, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.
  6. Rinse the soaked oysters to remove any sand. Trim off any tough parts. Steam the oysters in a small dish for 10 minutes over medium heat until soft.
  7. Put the ginkgo nuts in a small saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Drain, then skin.
  8. Break the bean-curd sticks into 2- to 3-inch pieces. Soak for 30 minutes in a small saucepan with water to cover, simmer about 10 minutes to soften, then drain.
  9. Drain the bean-thread noodles, then cut into 6-inch lengths.
  10. (You can prepare the recipe up to this point one day in advance. Cover the individual ingredients separately and refrigerate.)
  11. Blanch the snow peas in boiling water for 30 seconds. Rinse them under cold water and drain.
  12. Combine the ingredients for the seasoning mixture in a medium bowl and set aside.
  13. Combine the mushrooms, cloud ears, tiger-lily buds, fat choy, lotus seeds, oysters, ginkgo nuts, tofu, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, arrowheads, and dao pok (fried wheat gluten) in a large bowl. Combine the bean-thread noodles and bean-curd sticks in a second bowl, and the jujubes, Napa cabbage, and snow peas in a third bowl.
  14. Heat a wok over high heat, then heat 1 Tbsp. of oil. Add the red and fermented bean curds, lower the heat to medium-high, and cook 15 seconds, breaking it up with a spatula. Stir in the seasoning mixture, bring to a boil, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mushroom mixture and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the bean-thread noodles and bean-curd sticks and cook 4 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining ingredients and cook 2 minutes longer, tossing gently to distribute the Napa cabbage evenly. Serve hot.