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Feb 27, 2013 01:14 PM

Chinese New Year Lo Han Jai (Buddhist vegetarian stew)

As I polish off for lunch the last of the lo han jai I made for Chinese New Year (recipe: ), I'm wondering if anyone found any restaurant versions worth noting.

I tried two this year at banquet dinners in San Francisco. The version at House of Banquet on Clement St was pretty gruesome. The bean curd sheets were inadequately hydrated and turned out tough and chewy. The bowl was freshened up with broccoli and had more of that greenery than the traditional ingredients. In fact, those at the table who were not familiar with jai referred to it as the broccoli dish.

The Garden Restaurant in Chinatown served up a credible version, stained slightly pink from nam yee (red fermented bean curd). Heavy on the fen si and they were clumped together in this dryish version. A rather luxurious version with fresh champignon and bai ling mushrooms as well as black mushrooms giving the dish more umami and depth. A few sugar pea pods livened up the presentation.

Neither one had any fat choy (black hair moss).

More about Bai Ling mushrooms

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  1. Apparently there's a shortage of black hair moss. I'm sure there's more info out there, but wikipedia has some info as to why.

    2 Replies
    1. re: kmah

      Yes, thanks for mentioning this. I suspect we've been eating the fake stuff for years. My homemade jai was fat choy-less this year. I was late to do the shopping and the two places I tried didn't have any.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        I have to say beware of the cheap hair! It has a noticeable effect on the digestive system that the real stuff doesn't. We learned the hard way one year.

        Was fascinated to read the recipe. We don't do the long cooking at the end.

    2. I think that you will not find a jai to compare with one home made. Homemade is made by love not profit.

      1 Reply