Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wood ear fungus; golden needles

This is a companion post to my one of earlier today (which I neglected to post yesterday because I drank rather a lot of homemade wine while re-watching The Two Towers (increasingly my favorite of the trilogy for its aching portrayal of the hopelessly noble moral choices made by Arwen and Theoden and others; I must have read the books at least 15 times since my teens but I never really appreciated Arwen or her tragic fate until I saw the movie) and having a good cry and generally enjoying myself thoroughly).  I may never be able to top yesterday's hot pot, but today was interesting nonetheless ("But we will meet them in battle nonetheless." Sigh.).

So this is the wood ear fungus, tree ear fungus, black fungus, that I've been reading about in Chinese recipes forever but never found because it cleverly hides behind the appearance of seaweed.  But no.  It's the dried, shredded form of a kind of fungus that looks very like a big black ear when fresh.

With it is featured "golden needles," which are nothing more or less than dried day lily buds.  Astonishing!  Once you know what they are, they're easily recognizable as such.  With them, I made a dish from Bryanna Clark Grogan's Authentic Chinese Cuisine called Buddha's delight or Eight Treasure Dish (so called because it is supposed to have four dried ingredients and four fresh: I cheated a bit and mine is more like a Twelve Treasure Dish).  Here are some of my treasures:


First you soak all the dried ingredients. Besides the black fungus and golden needles, I used yuba sticks and dried shiitake mushrooms which never actually made it into the soup because I was too impatient to let them soak long enough to soften. Bryanna has her method, but I constructed my soup like a hot pot:



Hot pots are dead easy.  You just arrange your ingredients, pour on some stock, and cook until tender.  The finished soup, topped with green onions and sesame oil:


Not as brilliant as yesterday's, but still very good!  So what are these ingredients like?  Well, the wood ear fungus had little taste of its own but a nice chewy texture and a colour that contrasts pleasingly with the other ingredients in the pot.  I will use this again.  The lily buds?  Eh, meh.  A little sweetish but no real taste, they're beige.  I'll probably use up my packet but I didn't love them.

10 comments:

  1. I initially *hated* Arwen's beefed-up role in the movies - I thought it was ridiculous, unnecessary, and overly dramatized. But then I realized the same thing you mentioned - the books really do sort of sideline the heartwrenching decision she makes, while the movies make it much more obvious. I still think it's a tad bit overly dramatic ("Her fate is tied to that of the ring" or whatever that quote is? C'mon...), but I appreciate it nonetheless.

    The Twelve Treasure Dish looks colorful and delicious! I had no idea that day lily buds were edible! What a revelation.

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  2. Kelly, I had the same initial reaction as you, for sure. Thought Arwen was totally unnecessary in the books even, suitably relegated to an appendix. And I agree that the wasting away thing was silly. But that dramatized scene narrated by Hugo Weaving in which he foresees his daughter's actual fate (ageless while Aragorn must die of old age, wandering alone forever in a world abandoned by her people) makes me bawl every time...the fact that they both know and accept that...I'm like the anti-romantic in real life but their stylized romance has insinuated its way into my wizened little heart like, um, warm water into a dried shiitake mushroom.

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  3. LOTR is my favourite book EVER! I keep promising myself to watch all three movies back to back but haven't gotten round to it yet. That hot pot is the prettiest and yummiest looking thing I've seen in a long long time - it looks so delicious.

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  4. That hot pot looks amazing...and even though it sounds like you could take 'em or leave 'em, the lily buds sound like a fun thing to try! Hope I run into some someday.

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  5. Ah, Arwen. Sob.

    I've used wood ear but mine was in large pieces — not as charming as your version. And I didn't like it a whole lot. I've never used golden needles. I've also decided I don't like enoki that much — too rubbery. As for the rest of the hot pot — bring it on.

    One of these days I may get a donabe to cook my hot pots in.

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  6. Rose, the lily buds were a fun thing to try, but you have to ask, what--other than encroaching starvation--would have tempted anyone to eat them in the first place? Instead of cutting them in two, you can also knot them once they're soaked, which might be more cool-looking.

    Andrea, I haven't seen the large pieces wood ear--or maybe I have and just didn't recognize it. So much to learn. Did you know that enoki are now the bestselling mushrooms in Japan? They are rubbery, and they do get stuck between your teeth, but you have to admit they're just too cute! I bought kind of a donabe, but now I'm scared to put it on the element of my stove...

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  7. Oh, and Jeni, I've never done that LOTR marathon, but did once manage a three-nighter.

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  8. The enoki are super cute, which is probably why I thought I liked them. I have a donabe picked out on Amazon and I'm so tempted but for the fact we don't really need more cookware that we'll have to move in July. Talk me out of it, please.

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  9. Oh, wow, Andrea, they sure have some beautiful ones on Amazon.com (we don't get most of the cool extra stuff at Amazon.ca so I don't have these choices, luckily). I am prostrate with desire. The metal one would address my fears about placing ceramic on the stove element, too, though it looks, um, a lot like a wok...my general attitude is that if you have a food blog you can spend as much as you want on cooking utensils. After all, you need them. That said, I'm glad I won't be moving anytime soon :-)

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  10. Dried day lily leaves?! I toss those into the compost pile. Next year I'll try to save them for soup!

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