Feb 17, 2017

Fungus Among Us!

Rehydrated Chinese Black Wood Ear Mushrooms

Black Wood Ear Mushrooms are enjoyed in China, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the 
Phillippines, in Europe and Hawaii. They are also called "Black Fungus" in English and mu er (木耳) in Chinese. Mu er literally means “wood ear” in Chinese. Wood Ears take their name from the fact that they grow on the sides of decaying trees. The broad, flat shape of the mushroom makes the tree look like it has ears.

The Wood Ear Mushroom is considered a "Super Food". According to Chinese medicine practitioners, eating dried and cooked Wood Ear can have health benefits for people with high blood pressure or cancer, and can prevent coronary heart disease and arteriosclerosis. It may also be effective in reducing LDL cholesterol and aortic atherosclerotic plaque.
Available at Friendly Market on Molokai
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They have a wonderful crunchy texture when cooked, unlike the average mushroom which has a spongy texture. They don't have a strong taste once cooked, instead, they tastes like whatever sauce it’s cooked with.

In Chinese cooking, Wood Ear Mushrooms can be added to all sorts of dishes to add texture. It is one of the key ingredients in the famous moo shu pork. It’s often used in northern style noodles with gravy, and also commonly used in dumpling fillings, and soups like hot and sour soup.

Dried Black Wood Ear Mushrooms are visually striking, and make a recipe really look, and taste special. To rehydrate the mushrooms, simply boil a pot of water, soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for about 30 minutes, drain, rinse and drain again and set aside, cover and refrigerate if you're cooking them the next day. You will notice that they will almost quadruple in size once rehydrated.

Black Fungus Salad
To Americans, eating fungus sounds gross, however mushrooms are fungus, so get over it. This is a Chinese dish, served as a side salad.

1 inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
3 small stalks of celery, cut into thin strips
8 pieces of dried fungus, soaked in hot water until soften, about 30 minutes
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted
2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar and/or a little lime or lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2-3 drops sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon wasabi paste (optional)

Peel and then cut young ginger into thin strips, set aside. Rinse and cut celery into strips 2 inches long. Cut or tear rehydrated fungus into bite-size pieces. Cook celery in boiling, salted water for 2-3 minutes. Remove and put into a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking. Mix all ingredients for seasonings in a small bowl. Add the celery, fungus, ginger and garlic to the bowl, and then toss the mixture until well combined. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds. Makes 4 servings. Note: Adjust the seasonings to your taste.

Wok Fried Pork Belly with Black Mushrooms
Fresh chow fun noodles (wide rice noodles)
1 pound pork belly, without the pig skin,
    cut into thin slices
1 cup dried wood ear mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, then roughly chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese black bean sauce
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/4 cup water
2 green onions, split down the middle and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces for garnish

Heat slightly salted water in a wok, enough to cover the fresh chow fun noodles. When it comes to a boil, add the noodles and cook 2 or 3 minutes. Drain noodles in a colander in the sink. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of canola oil over the top of the noodle and toss to prevent the noodles from sticking together. Set aside.

In the same wok, sear thinly sliced pork belly in a dry wok over medium high heat until golden brown on all sides.

Add the bell pepper and stir-fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the soy sauce, black bean sauce, garlic and mushrooms. Stir-fry for about 5 minutes to blend all the flavors.

Add 1/4 cup water, cover, and simmer for 5-7 minutes over medium heat. Now add the cooked chow fun noodles. Stir one last time and serve, garnished with sliced green onions. Makes 4 servings.

Note: All of the ingredients in this recipe can usually be found in the Asian section of you grocery store, or online.

For more wood ear recipes on this site, click here.

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