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liuzhou

Mushrooms and Fungi in China

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China Central Television is currently running a cookery series. The beginning of episode one is (mainly) about wild mushrooms. It's in Chinese, but even if you don't understand the images will have you drooling.

On YouTube here.

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This is a giant flower mushroom (大花菇 花菇 dà huā gū) - a shiitake considerably larger those normally available.

LargeFlowerMushroom1.jpg

Wow these are really huge shiitake mushroom!

About 2 decades ago these mushrooms used to be very expensive. But these days, perhaps due to technology advancement in growing them, prices on flower mushrooms have come down significantly.

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The first fresh straw mushrooms of the season appeared in my local market this morning. Guess what's on the menu tonight!

Strawmushrooms2.jpg

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I just sliced them and fried them with a bit of garlic and a tiny splash of Thai fish sauce. Then ate them with a simple stir fry of pork and fermented black beans. And rice.

Keep it simple.

I do have a picture, but I'm on the road at the moment and can't post it now. Will do so in a day or two.

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To get max flavor and no soaking time, I often use a coffee grinder to turn dried muchrooms into mushroom powder.

This will also allow you to use the tough stems.

dcarch

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Mushroom powder has its uses, yes. Mainly industrial.

But for me, a huge part of the joy of mushrooms is their texture. And texture is also a key feature of Chinese cuisine.

I also think that most dried mushrooms, at least in China, aren't so dry that they would grind easily. But I've never tried.

(I'm posting this from a train somewhere in the middle of nowhere in southern China. We haven't moved for over an hour. Hope I'm not late for the promised lunch tomorrow. I think mushrooms are on the menu! Along with many other things. Sleep now. Nothing else to do.)

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Home again and didn't miss my lunch appointment!

Here is what I did with the straw mushrooms:

Sliced 'em

IMG_8107.jpg

Fried them very simply with garlic in some bacon fat I happened to have from brunch. Finished off with a splash of Thai fish sauce.

IMG_8111.jpg

Then served 'em

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It was a quick throw together dish, but I was leaving for a short field trip early next day and had no time to get elaborate. Anyway, I prefer to let the mushrooms do the talking. And they had to be used. They do not keep. In fact, even overnight in the fridge, they start to auto-deliquesce.

When I have more time, I also like them braised whole in soy sauce. They're also great in an omelette.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Yesterday, I received a parcel from an old and dear friend, 李美 (who uses the English name, Vera). It was a large box of dried mushrooms, but not any old mushrooms. These are rather special. I’d heard rumours that they existed, but had never been able to track them down.

IMG_0515Large.jpg

The hongzhui tree, 红椎树 (literally ‘red vertebrae tree’) (Castanopsis hystrix) is a subtropical species of evergreen broadleaf tree, which grows up to 30 meters in height. It is found in the eastern Himalayas of Nepal, Bhutan, and north-eastern India, across Indochina (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam), southern China (Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, south-western Hunan, south-eastern Tibet, and southern Yunnan), and Taiwan.

In a few areas of China, particularly Guangxi, but also Fujian and Guangdong, the hongzhui forests are home to a unique species of red mushroom. These are named after the trees and so are hongzhui mushrooms – 红椎菌.

Hongzhui mushrooms are found in the mountainous areas from May to August when it is both hot and wet. They grow under the shadow of the hongzhui trees, which also bear edible fruit similar to chestnuts but smaller.

Hongzhui mushrooms have so far resisted all attempts to grow them commercially, so they are all picked from the wild.

Pubei County in Qinzhou on the southern coast of Guangxi contains the largest area of hongzhui forests and the town of Longmen is the centre of the mushroom picking area.

My friend Vera writes:

I was born in a village of Longmen town, the major growing area of hongzhui mushrooms. Around the town, we have the most red fungi in the area. Picking them from the hills behind my old house is a very good, funny and happy memory from my childhood. We got up at dawn or even earlier, took a basket and started our journey. And we would also do it right after a sudden rain in the afternoon. There would be a good harvest. When walking in the wild, we had to be careful, otherwise we would suffer from being attacked by hornets or get itchy because of worms. I suffered many times but I enjoyed seeing the red “babies”. Because they could help earn money to pay for my school tuition.

We moved to town when I was 12 years old. I have never had such an experience again since then

The amount of hongzhui mushrooms picked is decreasing year by year due to environmental and climate changes. These mushrooms are much more rare than wild matsutake mushrooms but they are easier to take care of as they do not decay so rapidly.

 

They are normally sun dried, but in inclement weather over hot wood or coals. They are also eaten fresh, but fresh hongzhui mushrooms are only found local to their picking grounds. A trip is planned for the new season next year.

 

Here is a video (in Chinese) showing the mushrooms being picked then dried.

They are used with chicken, ribs, fish and with pig stomach, both in main dishes and in soups. It is said that they taste better when ginger and rice wine is used, but Vera prefers them plain so that she can get the full, natural taste.

Hongzhui mushrooms come in up to four grades. Nutritionally, there is no difference. Rather they are graded by appearance and texture. Prices vary from 170 – 400 yuan per 500g. (US$27 - $63, UK£17 - £39).

So here they are:

IMG_0523Large.jpg

IMG_0528Large.jpg

Opening the bag released a strong mushroom scent. Almost overpowering. The whole room smells of mushrooms!

As an experiment, I set four specimens to soak. The water immediately turned pink and after five minutes was distinctly red.

IMG_0533Large.jpg

IMG_0544Large.jpg

Here are the reconstituted mushrooms

IMG_0552Large.jpg

Following Vera's suggestion and continuing my experiment, I used these four babies in a simple chicken soup, minimally flavoured with a bit of ginger and salt. Of course, I strained and added the soaking liquid, too. The red soaking liquid was diluted by the chicken stock giving me a nice pink soup.

The mushrooms remained firm to the bite and tasted slightly sweet and somewhat nutty. They certainly went well with the chicken. More experiments shall follow.

IMG_0573Large.jpg

Thank you 李美!


Edited by liuzhou added link to video (log)
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These look lovely; apart from the nuttiness you mention, is their flavour very different from that of other mushrooms? Rather depressing, that about their attrition in the wild, though.

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is their flavour very different from that of other mushrooms?

The flavour was sort of generically mushroomy, but sweeter than most and with a distinctive nuttiness. That may be just the way I cooked them. Further experiments may bring out the flavour more. I want to try stir frying them to see what happens. That is how my friend prefers them and she should know!

I'll let you know.It may take a few days. I seem to be booked up for banquets the next few mealtimes. It's a hard life.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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is their flavour very different from that of other mushrooms?

The flavour was sort of generically mushroomy, but sweeter than most and with a distinctive nuttiness. That may be just the way I cooked them. Further experiments may bring out the flavour more. I want to try stir frying them to see what happens. That is how my friend prefers them and she should know!

I'm looking forward to your findings.

I'll let you know.It may take a few days. I seem to be booked up for banquets the next few mealtimes. It's a hard life.

Yep, I can tell you're suffering ;)

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I had a kid of snack in a Chinese 'restaurant' in Chengdu. It had many of those black mushrooms (Cloud ear, Jews Ear,......)in it and it had pickled Chillies in it too. Those are the two things I remember in it...possibly some other veg like carrots but I can't remember. It was great. Any ideas what it was called? It was just a snack this guy I was with bought while we drank a beer.


Edited by Ader1 (log)

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Any ideas what it was called?

I very much doubt it had a specific name. "Mixed black fungi with pickled stuff."

I guess he was just throwing together what he had - a fine tradition.

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I came across these today.

cordycep militaris 2.jpg

They are cordycep militaris, known in Chinese as 虫草花 (chóng cǎo huā), which literally translates as 'worm grass flower. They are neither worm, grass or flower, but a type of cultivated mushroom.

The name is an attempt to cash in on a supposed connection with the unrelated but much more renowned and expensive Caterpillar Fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis). Allegedly, they have similar if weaker nutritional and medical benefits. And are 330元/kg as compared to the 100,000元/kg the real thing can fetch.

Still they look kind of pretty, I suppose and they are rather good in a chicken or duck soup. They become tasteless but have a nice texture. Any nutrients are supposedly transferred to the soup and they do give it a pleasant herbal flavour and interesting colour.

cordycep militaris 1.jpg


Edited by liuzhou (log)

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And then we have dried Nameko Mushrooms (Pholiota nameko - aka Butterscotch mushroom). In Chinese, 滑子蘑 (huá zi mó).

These are a very popular cultivated mushroom in Japan. They are small (the cap is about the size of my thumbnail), have a gelatinous coating and are mainly used as an ingredient in miso soup. They are also sometimes stir fried.

In China, they are less well known but are also occasionally used in soups, hot pots and stir fries. Overcooking tends to make them more gelatinous to the point where many people begin to find them unpleasant.

Nameko Mushrooms (dried).jpg

Dried Nameko Mushrooms

Nameko Mushrooms (rehydrated).jpg

Rehydrated Nameko Mushrooms


Edited by liuzhou (log)

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I came across these today for the first time.

dried shimeji2.jpg

They are dried shimeji mushrooms. For the fresh variety see the first post.


Edited by liuzhou (log)

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Just a quick note on the nameko mushrooms mentioned two posts back. Yesterday, I was boiling up some organic chicken trimmings (head, feet, wing tips and backbone mainly) to make a little stock. I noticed a handful of dried nameko mushrooms in the cupboard and on a whim rinsed them and threw them in with the chicken.

 

About an hour later, I strained the stock and discarded the chicken bits and mushrooms (there were also some shallots and a carrot). The mushrooms had totally transformed the stock into a umami-rich wonder. Best stock I've every made.

 

I don't much like the mushrooms for eating, but I'll be doing that again.

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Thanks for that tip. I hadn't thought of adding dried mushrooms to my chicken stock before. I'll be trying that next time; I have packages of dried mushrooms (not nameko) that I keep forgetting to use.

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And another.

 

Found these today. 榛蘑 (zhēn mó) which I am going to translate to Hazel Mushroom. These are dried. 

 

I haven't tried then yet and they don't fit in with today's menu. But I'll get back to you.

 

hm.jpg
 

 

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Here are the Hazel Mushrooms after rehydration.

 

hm1.jpg

 

I cooked them two ways. First I used some in an omelette. Not nice. The taste was great but the texture was slimy and unpleasant. Then I stuck the remainder into some chicken stock and let them simmer away for around 30 minutes. Left me with a wonderful tasting, umami rich stock. Threw the mushrooms away, though.

 

ms.jpg

 

 

The stock is now in the freezer till I think what to do with it.

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I have often used dried porcinis to up the umami element in stocks, soups and stews and some dried shiitakes in less Western dishes. Next time I am in the Asian store I will look for other varieties of dried mushrooms.

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I have often used dried porcinis to up the umami element in stocks, soups and stews and some dried shiitakes in less Western dishes. Next time I am in the Asian store I will look for other varieties of dried mushrooms.

 

Yes.My standard test for most new mushrooms I come across is omelettes and stocks. I routinely use some in stocks once I get to know them.

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Found these today. 榛蘑 (zhēn mó) which I am going to translate to Hazel Mushroom. These are dried.

 

These mushrooms resemble me "Honey fungus" (Armillaria). Very good mushrooms for preserving for winter in jars with salt or marinade.

 

In September I found a lot of them in the forest in Lithuania (photos bellow) and made them marinated after boiling with salt and vinegar. After 60 days after marinated they should be ready for eating.

 

opyata-4.jpg

 

opyata-3.jpg

 

opyata-6.jpg


Edited by hobo (log)

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