As mentioned in the previous post, Aunty M asked if I wanted to watch and learn how she makes jai. This is like Obi-Wan Kenobi teaching you the ways of the force. Foolish to say no, one would be.
The Cat jai should be called lo han cai. Lo han (not the “actress”) are Buddhist practitioners (monks) that have achieved a high level of wisdom and skill. Cai are vegetables or vegetable products. So lo han cai is “monk’s vegetarian food”. When I was growing up, I always knew it as jai, for simplicity, I’ll just refer to it as jai.
When I got there, she had already cleaned and soaked the ingredients. She soaks the dry ingredients a couple of days beforehand. She cleaned the fresh ingredients at least a day before. She paced herself so that she isn’t rushed and have to do everything at once. Good thinking.
According to Aunty M, the secret is in the sauce. Her sauce consists of red and white fermented beancurd,
Chinese oyster sauce, water, and sugar. I didn’t get the proportions (it’s a secret). I’ll experiment later.
The Secret Sauce
Aunty M has about fifteen ingredients that go into her jai, including several different dried and fried beancurd, mushrooms, ginkgo nuts, dried chestnuts, water chestnuts, tree ear fungus, long rice, dried oysters, fa cai (a fungus), etc. She starts off by heating a large pot and pouring enough oil to coat the bottom.
I still remember a lesson from watching Martin Yan (Yan Can Cook). When he had a show on PBS: “Hot pan, cold oil, food don’t stick”.
She then adds the ingredients, in no particular order except sturdy ones first.
More Dried Beancurd
There was another dried beancurd variety that looks like thin sheets of parchment paper (sorry, no picture). Some restaurants that serve dim sum do stuff deep fried beancurd with the thin sheets.
Aunty M also added canned straw mushrooms.
Deep Fried Doufu
I’m not sure what shi gu is. Aunty M forgot the English name and The Cat knows what it is but not the English name. I have to go to Chinatown and look for before it’s peeled and cleaned.
Dried Lilly Flowers
Long Rice or Cellophane Noodles
Last but not least
After bring everything to boil and simmering for a bit, gentle stirring, adjusting for taste, all the ingredients blend and you get
The taste was very good. Aunty M pointed out that every family makes jai a little differently. There is no correct recipe, but the basics are lots of soybean products, including the fermented soybean.
Thanks Aunty M for another culinary experience (with the grilled cheese sandwich it began, yes, hmm).
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