Friday, October 19, 2012

Vegan MoFo 15- What is black fungus? Straw mushrooms?

What is Black Fungus? Straw Mushrooms?
A mushroom/fungus that has a texture similar to jellyfish or thick seaweed (bottom row in the middle). The wood ear, cloud ear, tree ear or black fungus is sold dried whole or in small strips. They need to be soaked before use but their unique soft yet slightly crunchy texture is quite different to traditional soft mushrooms. The very mild flavour makes it a great healthy, filling, low calorie ingredient to add to your meals.
In the dried mushroom section you can also find an array of fungus, shitake, enoki, shimeji, straw, king brown and oyster mushrooms which simply have to be rehydrated and used. Incidentally the water used to rehydrate becomes a wonderfully flavourful mushroom 'stock' that can be refrigerated/frozen and used in recipes.
There are many many fresh mushroom varieties available at the Asian grocer. My favourites would have to be the king browns which are huge (see the clear, green and red bags pictured). They're a world apart from the muted flavours of white button mushrooms and are a great meat substitute- they're even sturdy enough to fry in slices and use as mushroom 'steaks'. You can also find fresh brown shitakes,  small, delicate, white enoki mushrooms, small brown shimeji and flat white oysters which make a great additions to stir-fries.
The Asian grocer also sells an array of canned mushrooms, my favourites are the straw mushrooms (which I can't seem to find fresh) but they're quite salty so need a good rise before using. Incidentally my favourite mushrooms are monkey-head mushrooms- does anyone know where to find them??? I've only been able to find them in restaurants...
I love my mushrooms and use them often in my cooking. Here are some yummy mushroom recipes.
I hope you branch out of the usual button mushroom rut and try something new- they're are so many more flavourful mushrooms around!
All the best,

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  1. So many mushrooms! Thanks for decoding some of them.

  2. I live a few blocks from Chinatown and I often buy dried mushrooms in these markets. Cheaper and so many varieties!


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