Two-Minute Takeout: Golden Duck’s Jai for Chinese New Year 2022
Why is this vegetarian dish a must for Lunar New Year feasts? And what do the different ingredients mean? Find out here.
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Lunar New Year 2022 is Feb. 1, kicking off the Year of the Water Tiger. Many Chinese people celebrate with different foods to ensure all-around auspiciousness for the coming year—and one of those is jai, or monk’s food.
A true Buddhist doesn’t eat meat, so to embrace your spirituality with a fresh start, the first meal of the new year is supposed to be vegetarian. Jai recipes vary by region in China, which may explain why it’s hard for me to find a version that’s close to the way my mom used to make it. Many restaurants make their jai soupy; others don’t use enough ingredients.
I like mine very savory with as many of the ingredients as you can find, not just for good luck, but because I like all the flavors and especially the textures they provide. After many years of searching, I found my favorite new year jai at Golden Duck Chinese Restaurant ($18.95).
Golden Duck’s jai is thick and savory, and it contains 10 to 12 of the most commonly recommended ingredients. They don’t use carrots or gingko nuts, but for me, that’s a very marginal detail.
You can get jai at any Chinese restaurant, not just Golden Duck, especially during the Lunar New Year celebration. Here are the different ingredients and their significance—so you know what to eat to have a great Year of the Water Tiger!
- Tofu, included as fried cubes and bean curd sticks or yuba – blessings to the house
- Black mushrooms – welcome spring and symbolize seizing opportunities
- Snow peas – unity
- Wood ear fungus – longevity
- Cabbage – the green symbolizes cash
- Water chestnuts – unity
- Bamboo shoots – long life
- Black moss – wealth
- Mung bean thread noodles – longevity
- Golden lily buds – wealth
- Gingko nuts – good fortune
- Arrowroot – good life
- Carrots – the round shape and orange color symbolize coins
- Dried oysters – these aren’t vegetarian, but in Southern China, they represent good luck and good fortune, so some people include these in their jai (my mom did!).
Open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. 1221 S. King St., (808) 597-8088, golden-duck-restaurant.business.site