Today is the start of the New Year per the Chinese lunar calendar. As with other cultures, you need to start the New Year properly by eating the right foods.
One traditional new year dish is Jai. What does Jai mean? I don't know. However, the symbolism of Jai, which is a vegetarian dish, is that the first meal of the day should not involve killing. Depending upon the region or family, the first few days are vegetarian, the first day is vegetarian, the first meal is vegetarian or the dish is on the table for breakfast. Also, jai is chockful of good luck, prosperity and longevity symbolic foods.
This is my version of Jai, plucked from my memory. Also, there is no real set recipe for Jai. If I'm wrong, my parents will probably let me know. :-)
The fixins (staring 9 o'clock and going clockwise)
Lily buds (Golden needles - wealth) - soak to rehydrate
Cloud Ears (Longevity) - soak to rehydrate
Dried Mushrooms - soak to rehydrate
Arrowhead (Benovolence) - peel but keep the stem attached
Carrots - cut into disk
Fried Tofu Puffs
Mung Bean Vermicelli (Longevity) - soak to rehydrate
Soy Bean Sprouts
Vegetable Stock (not shown)
Soy Sauce (not shown)
Simmer in vegetable broth the lily buds, cloud ears, mushrooms, arrowhead, bamboo shoots, carrots and tofu puffs about 15 minutes.
Add the vermicelli, soy bean sprouts, snow peas and nappa cabbage and continue simmering about 5 to 10 minutes.
Add soy sauce to taste.
Serve with rice.
While I was cooking the dish, I had a flash and remembered eating lettuce cups too. Lettuce is symbolic of good luck or something good. Doubly blessed by eating Jai wrapped in lettuce. lol!
I found the following link that has a better explanation for Jai: http://starbulletin.com/98/01/14/features/story1.html