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Mushrooms and Fungi in China
An eG member recently asked me by private message about mushrooms in China, so I thought I'd share some information here.
What follows is basically extracted from my blog and describes what is available in the markets and supermarkets in the winter months - i.e now.
December sees the arrival of what most westerners deem to be the standard mushroom – the button mushroom (小蘑菇 xiǎo mó gū). Unlike in the west where they are available year round, here they only appear when in season, which is now. The season is relatively short, so I get stuck in.
The standard mushroom for the locals is the one known in the west by its Japanese name, shiitake. They are available year round in the dried form, but for much of the year as fresh mushrooms. Known in Chinese as 香菇 (xiāng gū), which literally means “tasty mushroom”, these meaty babies are used in many dishes ranging from stir fries to hot pots.
Second most common are the many varieties of oyster mushroom. The name comes from the majority of the species’ supposed resemblance to oysters, but as we are about to see the resemblance ain’t necessarily so.
The picture above is of the common oyster mushroom, but the local shops aren’t common, so they have a couple of other similar but different varieties.
Pleurotus geesteranus, 秀珍菇 (xiù zhēn gū) (below) are a particularly delicate version of the oyster mushroom family and usually used in soups and hot pots.
凤尾菇 (fèng wěi gū), literally “Phoenix tail mushroom”, is a more robust, meaty variety which is more suitable for stir frying.
Another member of the pleurotus family bears little resemblance to its cousins and even less to an oyster. This is pleurotus eryngii, known variously as king oyster mushroom, king trumpet mushroom or French horn mushroom or, in Chinese 杏鲍菇 (xìng bào gū). It is considerably larger and has little flavour or aroma when raw. When cooked, it develops typical mushroom flavours. This is one for longer cooking in hot pots or stews.
One of my favourites, certainly for appearance are the clusters of shimeji mushrooms. Sometimes known in English as “brown beech mushrooms’ and in Chinese as 真姬菇 zhēn jī gū or 玉皇菇 yù huáng gū, these mushrooms should not be eaten raw as they have an unpleasantly bitter taste. This, however, largely disappears when they are cooked. They are used in stir fries and with seafood. Also, they can be used in soups and stews. When cooked alone, shimeji mushrooms can be sautéed whole, including the stem or stalk. There is also a white variety.
Next up we have the needle mushrooms. Known in Japanese as enoki, these are tiny headed, long stemmed mushrooms which come in two varieties – gold (金針菇 jīn zhēn gū) and silver (银针菇 yín zhēn gū)). They are very delicate, both in appearance and taste, and are usually added to hot pots.
Then we have these fellows – tea tree mushrooms (茶树菇 chá shù gū). These I like. They take a bit of cooking as the stems are quite tough, so they are mainly used in stews and soups. But their meaty texture and distinct taste is excellent. These are also available dried.
Then there are the delightfully named 鸡腿菇 jī tuǐ gū or “chicken leg mushrooms”. These are known in English as "shaggy ink caps". Only the very young, still white mushrooms are eaten, as mature specimens have a tendency to auto-deliquesce very rapidly, turning to black ‘ink’, hence the English name.
Not in season now, but while I’m here, let me mention a couple of other mushrooms often found in the supermarkets. First, straw mushrooms (草菇 cǎo gū). Usually only found canned in western countries, they are available here fresh in the summer months. These are another favourite – usually braised with soy sauce – delicious! When out of season, they are also available canned here.
Then there are the curiously named Pig Stomach Mushrooms (猪肚菇 zhū dù gū). These are another favourite. They make a lovely mushroom omelette. Also, a summer find.
And finally, not a mushroom, but certainly a fungus and available fresh is the wood ear (木耳 mù ěr). It tastes of almost nothing, but is prized in Chinese cuisine for its crunchy texture. More usually sold dried, it is available fresh in the supermarkets now.
Please note that where I have given Chinese names, these are the names most commonly around this part of China, but many variations do exist.
Coming up next - the dried varieties available.
Rou Jia Mo 肉夹馍
These have been mentioned a couple of times recently on different threads and I felt they deserved one of their own. After all, they did keep me alive when I lived in Xi'an.
Rou jia mo (ròu jiá mò; literally "Meat Sandwich") are Chinese sandwiches which originated in Shaanxi Province, but can be found all over China. Away from their point of origin, the tend to be made with long stewed pork belly. However in Xi'an (capital of Shaanxi), there is a large Muslim population so the meat of choice is more usually beef. In nearby Gansu Province, lamb or mutton is more likely.
When I was living in Xi'an in 1996-1997, I lived on these. I was living on campus in North-West University (西北大学) and right outside the school gate was a street lined with cheap food joints, most of which would serve you one. I had one favourite place which I still head to when I visit. First thing I do when I get off the train.
What I eat is Cumin Beef Jia Mo (孜然牛肉夹馍 zī rán niú ròu jiá mò). The beef is stir fried or BBQd with cumin and mild green peppers. It is also given a bit of a kick with red chill flakes.
Here is a recipe wrested from the owner of my Xi'an favourite. So simple, yet so delicious.
Fairly lean beef is cut into slivers
Chopped Beef (sorry about the picture quality - I don't know what happened)
I use this single clove garlic from Sichuan, but regular garlic does just fine.
The beef and garlic are mixed in a bowl and generously sprinkled with ground cumin. This is then moistened with a little light soy sauce. You don't want to flood it. Set aside for as long as you can.
Mild Green Chilli Pepper
Take one or two mild green peppers and crush with the back of a knife, then slice roughly. You could de-seed if you prefer. I don't bother.
Chopped Green Pepper
Fire up the wok, add oil (I use rice bran oil) and stir fry the meat mixture until the meat is just done.
Then add the green peppers and fry until they are as you prefer them. I tend to like them still with a bit of crunch, so slightly under-cook them
In with the peppers
You will, of course, have prepared the bread. The sandwiches are made with a type of flat bread known as 白吉饼 (bái jí bǐng; literally "white lucky cake-shape"). The ones here are store bought but I often make them. Recipe below.
Bai Ji Bing
Take one and split it. Test the seasoning of the filling, adding salt if necessary. It may not need it because of the soy sauce.
Cover to make a sandwich and enjoy. You will see that I have used a bunch of kitchen paper to hold the sandwich and to soak up any escaping juices. But it should be fairly dry.
The final product.
Note: I usually cook the meat and pepper in batches. Enough for one sandwich per person at a time. If we need another (and we usually do) I start the next batch.
350g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
Mix the yeast with the flour and stir in the water. Continue stirring until a dough forms. Knead until smooth. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and leave to rise by about one third. (maybe 30-40 minutes).
Knead again to remove any air then roll the dough into a log shape around 5cm in diameter, then cut into six portions. Press these into a circle shape using a rolling pin. You want to end up with 1.5cm thick buns.
Preheat oven to 190C/370F.
Dry fry the buns in a skillet until they take on some colour about a minute or less on each side, then finish in the oven for ten minutes. Allow to cool before using.
Peanut oil...who knew? FYI
DH and I make Chinese dishes for our lunches quite often. He does the 'mises' and I do the cooking and get ready the odds and sods, like the tea, setting the table, putting out the condiments, etc. Truth be told, his job is more work than mine...but then he gets to have Chinese food quite often which is what he likes.
And we use peanut oil, most of which we buy at our local Asian grocery store. And until yesterday, neither one of us never looked at the "Ingredient list" for peanut oil. Peanut oil would contain only peanut oil...one would think.
Apparently not so. Our current container which is titled "Peanut Cooking Oil" has the following ingredient list (in order): Soybean Oil, Sesame Oil, Peanut Oil. Who knew?
Yesterday we bought peanut oil at a regular grocery store, a Loblaws brand (Canadian brand), and it contains...wait for it...100% peanut oil.
Chinese Noodle Joints
Everywhere around me are noodle places. When I go down town, I see even more. I find them interesting.
I am in the south of China where the preference is for rice noodles. In the north, wheat is more common. But that's not the only choice you have to make.
Here are a few noodle joints, all within ten minutes walk of my house. There are more (though some are still closed for the New Year holiday).
This one specialises in not specialising. They are all rice noodles though.
This one give more choice. You can have either rice noodles (粉 fěn) or wheat noodles (面 miàn), but again in a variety of styles
Lamb or Mutton Noodles
Guilin Rice Noodles
Snail noodles is THE local dish. There are literally hundreds of shops selling this dish. More on this topic here.
More to come
I'm often asked to translate menus for my local restaurants. Usually by foreign customers; less often by the restaurants.
I thought I'd post some here. Copyright isn't an issue as they are just lists of dishes. They may be of interest.
First up is a small restaurant which I visited yesterday. Their menu is on the wall and they specialise in sand pot dishes. These are (almost) all in one meals with the dish of your choice served over rice cooked in a clay (sand) pot. They do come with a side of stir-fried cabbage and a bowl of thin soup (more like water). This is Chinese work/student canteen type food. Cheap and cheerful.
At the bottom of the main menu is a variety of soft drinks plus beer, which I haven't translated. Most are unavailable outside China, although Coca Cola and Sprite are there. The smaller menus on the right are for rice porridge. I haven't translated these either Sand Pots 莲藕肉片饭 Lotus Root and Sliced Pork Rice 10 豆腐肉片饭 Tofu and Sliced Pork Rice 10 时菜肉饼饭 Seasonal Vegetable Pork Pie Rice 10 茄子肉末饭 Eggplant with Ground Meat Rice 11 鱼片煲仔饭 Fish Sandpot Rice 11 姜汁鱼尾饭 Ginger Fish Tail Rice 12 鸡杂砂煲饭 Chicken Giblets Sandpot Rice 12 冬菇骨鸡饭 Dried Shiitake and Chicken Rice 12 香辣牛肉饭 Spicy Beef Rice 16 酸甜排骨饭 Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs Rice 16 香芹腊味饭 Celery Cured Meat Rice 13 豉椒排骨饭 Salted Beans and Pepper Ribs 13 冬菇田鸡饭 Dried Shiitake Frog Rice 13 蚝油牛肉饭 Oyster Sauce Beef Rice 14 红烧带鱼饭 Red-cooked Belt Fish Rice 14 干妈五花饭 Pork Belly in Chilli Sauce Rice 14 美味叉烧饭 Tasty Char Sui Rice 14 鲜虾煲仔饭 Fresh Shrimp Sandpot Rice 14 红椒黄鳝饭 Red Chilli Ricefield Eel Rice 14 黑椒猪肚饭 Black Pepper Tripe Rice 15 肥肠煲仔饭 Pig's Intestines Sandpot Rice 15 柠檬鸭仔饭 Lemon Duck Rice 15 加菜每份 (以最高价) Extra Vegetable Portion (by highest price) 4 打包盒 Take Away Box 1 Soups 紫菜蛋花汤 Seaweed Egg Drop Soup 8 枸杞猪肝汤 Goji Berry Pig's Liver Soup 10 车螺芥菜汤 Clam and Leaf Mustard Soup 15 西红柿蛋花汤 Tomato and Egg Soup 8 Vegetables etc. 炒油菜 Fried Rape 8 西红柿炒蛋 Scrambled Egg with Tomato 12 鱼腥草 Lizard's Tail 5 凉拌皮蛋 Cold Dressed Century Egg 10 凉拌黄瓜 Cold Dressed Cucumber 5 煎蛋 Fried Egg 2 Prices are in Chinese Yuan (1 Yuan = $0.15 USD / £0.10 GBP as of September 15, 2015) This is number 4 on the menu
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