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eG Foodblog: hzrt8w - A week of Chinese New Year celebration


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What do an ethnic Chinese, a foodie, and a computer geek have in common?

Answer: Absolutely nothing!

It just happens to be me!

In mathematical terms, using the modern set theory:

A = set of all Chinese

B = set of all foodies

C = set of all computer geeks

There exists a subset D where:

D = A ∩ B ∩ C

And I am a member of set D.

Or in Boolean logic:

A = Chinese

B = foodie

C = computer geeks

D = A AND B AND C

Or expressed in SQL:

SELECT Ethnic_group, Hobbie_interest, Profession FROM All_population

WHERE Ethnic_group = ‘Chinese’ AND

Hobbie_interest = ‘foodie’ AND

Profession = ‘computer geeks’

Okay… I have lost half of the audience! That’s great! I can start with my food blog now.

Greetings! My name is Wai-Kwong Leung. Or in Chinese convention, which goes in the “surname, given-name” format, my name is Leung Wai-Kwong.

In Chinese:

gallery_19795_4241_1673.jpg

Leung (the top character in the picture) is a common surname with no particular meaning. My father named me “Wai Kwong”. Wai (the middle character in the picture) means “Great” (as in achievement) or “Hugh” (as in size). Kwong (the bottom character in the picture) means “Bright”.

Leung, though it seems it may not be as common in the USA, is ranked the 11th in the most popular surnames in the Cantonese region. The order that I heard many years ago was (all pronunciations in Cantonese):

1: Chan

2: Lee (or Li)

3: Cheung

4: Wong

5: Ho

6: Au

7: Chow (or Chau)

8: Wu (or Woo)

9: Ma

10: Luk

Do some of these surnames look familiar to you? My wife’s family is the Wongs. This surname is quite common in the Toysanese region in Canton. Many of them had immigrated to the USA since the railroad building days.

It is quite common, though not required, that the siblings in a family have either the same first given name or second given name. For example, in my family all my brothers share the same second given name “Kwong”. My first brother is Leung Yuk-Kwong. My second brother is Leung Hung-Kwong. Father told us that it is for the sake of identification of our generation – since most people in the same village may have the same surname. When we say we are the “Kwong’s” generation, the villagers will know. They keep the genealogy and naming book in the small village temple.

My father was born in a small village near Guongzhou (old name Canton). At the age of 13, he took a train to Hong Kong to look for work – and didn’t look back since - except during years of the Japanese occupation. Both my brothers and sister and I were born and grew up in Hong Kong. I came to San Diego, California for college and later settled down in the US.

I like to be addressed as “Ah Leung”. And in Chinese:

gallery_19795_4241_2274.jpg

The word “Ah” is just a common street salutation in Canton. Therefore there are many “Ah Wong”, “Ah Lee”, “Ah Chan” walking down the streets of Hong Kong. In Mandarin, the same street salutation would be “Xiao Leung”, where the word “Xiao” literally means “little”. It is an attempt to be modest (a Chinese’s virtue) having others addressing ourselves as “little”.

The food consumed in Hong Kong is primarily Cantonese style. But Hong Kong is actually a melting pot of all cuisines in the nearby vicinities. The primary reason is the influx of immigrants, legal or illegal – well, back in the 40’s and 50’s the Hong-Kong/Mainland border was quite loose. And there was a big wave of immigrants from the mainland seemingly overnight when Mao advocated his “Big Leap Forward” campaign (and later on “The Cultural Revolution”). Many new immigrants brought their home style cooking with them. In Hong Kong, you will find a mix of different cuisines from Chiu Chow, Hakka, Shanghai, Peking, Sichuan, Hunan, etc.. Because of over 150 years of British ruling, Hong Kong also iss influenced greatly by European cultures (primarily British, French and Italy, and to a degree Portuguese because of the proximity to Macau – a Portuguese colony). And in recent decades: USA, India, Japan, Taiwan, The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia. Hamburgers, thanks to McDonald’s, made its way to Hong Kong in the 70’s. And pizza, thanks to Pizza Hut, in the 80’s. Mexican food such as tacos, burritos and carnitas, however, did not receive enthusiastic response for whatever reason. In the late 1980’s, there was something like “Two” Mexican restaurants in the whole district of Tsimshatsui.

When the eGullet blog team approached me to write a one-week food blog, I felt flattered and was very excited. The timing couldn’t have been better. The coming week is Chinese New Year. I would like to take this opportunity to mention some of the Chinese customs in celebrating this most important festivity in Chinese culture all around the globe through out this week. More to come later.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Hot dog! More armchair traveling. I may never actually get out of my own backyard, but egullet is making it feel like I go everywhere! I am really looking forward to this week.

Thanks for the 'name' information. Can I expose my ignorance and request a pronunciation guide to 'Leung' (I think I can figure out the Ah part :biggrin: )?

Kim

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Did you hear a little voice from over this way, beseeching the blog-gods? It was saying, "Let it be hzrt8w!" in the same tones as standing by the Sorting Hat and whispering, "Not Slitherin; Not Slitherin."

Hooray!!!

Caro will be ELATED!! We're snowed in a bit, again, and are all stocked up with good stuff to COOK!!

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Happy Chinese New Year, Ah Leung!

新年快乐,万事如意!

It's already the first day of the year of the pig in Singapore, and we completed our reunion dinner several hours ago. We went to a restaurant this year and both seatings were completely packed. As is a tradition in Singapore, we started with the yu sheng (or raw fish salad) that you toss as high as possible. The other dishes included a shark fins soup, steamed whole fish, sauteed prawns and scallops served in a hollowed out pineapple that was flambed table-side, flattened almond chicken pieces served with egg crepes, braised eight-treasure vegetables (included carrots, corn, mushrooms, cabbage and lotus seeds), crabs sauteed in a light curry sauce, fried noodles, and mashed yam and pumpkin dessert (a quintessentially Chaozhou dessert).

I look forward eagerly to your reunion dinner and the rest of your dining experiences this week!

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Well, it's about time! I'm so glad you're food-blogging this week, sharing your holiday and your always erudite, always interesting knowledge.

Gung Hai Fat Choi (or whatever your favorite transliteration of the Chinese characters is)!

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Sounds incredibly fun!

Great Intro...I love when people blog to their own style/preference - makes each blogger's write up (blog) THAT much more interesting.

Can't wait to see what you have stored for us....

Please do not refrain from taking ANY pictures :) Love the pictures.

How about starting with some pictures of the fridge/freezer/pantry? PLEASE!!!!

"One Hundred Years From Now It Will Not Matter What My Bank Account Was, What Kind of House I lived in, or What Kind of Car I Drove, But the World May Be A Better Place Because I Was Important in the Life of A Child."

LIFES PHILOSOPHY: Love, Live, Laugh

hmmm - as it appears if you are eating good food with the ones you love you will be living life to its fullest, surely laughing and smiling throughout!!!

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ah Leung, ....your story makes me homesick and at the same time makes me laugh remembering the saying that you know you are a Hong Kong Chinese when you ask your parents about a simple mathematical problem and 2 hours later they are still lecturing you hehehe

Gung Hei Fat Choy to all and especially to all from my adopted home of Hong Kong.

I am so sad that I won't be home for the New Year but SO happy that you will be blogging

it's a gift to me so dojeh dojeh dojeh sai :smile::smile::smile:

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Gung Hai Fat Choi, Ah Leung, Silow!

I've got my "yoon hap" filled with goodies, ready for you to come "by neen" and get your "lai see". Don't forget I like perfect persimmons, rosy apples, and juicy tangerines in your " siu thleem" bag! :biggrin:

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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I am s-o-o looking forward to this. I have never posted on the Chinese forum, but have made many of Ah Leung's wonderful dishes, including last night's dinner of ma po tofu, with leftovers being today's lunch.

Happy New Year Ah Leung and thank you for your great pictorials!

Ilene

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Another Set D person checking in! I'm excited because this is going to be my first chinese new year away from home so no lavish spreads like I'm used to. I'm going to be making dumplings from scratch for the first time but I can't wait to see what you can pull off!

PS: I am a guy.

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...

Or expressed in SQL:

SELECT Ethnic_group, Hobbie_interest, Profession FROM All_population

WHERE Ethnic_group = ‘Chinese’ AND

Hobbie_interest = ‘foodie’ AND

Profession = ‘computer geeks’

...

Okay, you have my attention now. Can't wait to follow your week.

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Having made quite a few dishes from your awesome pictorial, I am looking forward to this blog and increasing my knowledge of Chinese cuisine!

john

John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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Thank you for your warm responses everyone! I look forward to doing this "show N tell" too. First... to answer some questions:

Thanks for the 'name' information.  Can I expose my ignorance and request a pronunciation guide to 'Leung' (I think I can figure out the Ah part  :biggrin: )?

Kim: The pronounciation of "Leung". Think of the famous French city Leon. But say it much faster - because unlike Mandarin which has transitions, Cantonese is "chopping" monotonic. The Brits gave us this spelling and they usually can do a pretty good job in pronouncing it close to Cantonese.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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I am terribly excited that you are blogging!

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Please do not refrain from taking ANY pictures :) Love the pictures.

How about starting with some pictures of the fridge/freezer/pantry? PLEASE!!!!

Lindsay Ann: Pictures you will find plenty. Ah Leung is nothing is not providing pictures. :raz:

But... errr... the fridge... hmmmm... Chinese don't use refrigerators! We cook everything fresh and consume everything cooked in a meal. (Well, typically it is.)

Let me apologize in advance. No shots on my refrigerator or pantry. That's my condition of doing the blog accepted by Susan in FL. But she said "we'll work on that..." :laugh: Too messy lah!

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Happy Chinese New Year, Ah Leung!

新年快乐,万事如意!

Happy New Year to you too, Makan King!

In California, which is 16 hours behind Singapore time, GMT -8, this is still just the morning of Chinese New Year Eve. I do realize that on your part of the world the New Year has already come upon you.

People in Hawaii, the last major population to the east of the International Date Line, would be the last to observe the arrival of the New Year. So, being Californians are not so bad! :laugh:

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Looking forward to an enlightening week, Ah Leung!

Hi Erik:

I still remember your week if portridge breakfast and your shell program! LOL! :laugh:

Another thing I need to apologize in advance:

I don't eat breakfast as a habit. So no picture on McMuffin or donuts or ham and eggs. I do like to drink different beverages in the morning and snack on different things through out the day.

I am not always like this (not eating breakfast). When I worked in Hong Kong in the late 80's, I used to eat 5 meals a day! Breakfast: McDonald's McMuffin and a cup of coffee, or a bowl of congee and cheung fun (steamed rice noodles). Lunch: typically some Chinese stir-fries over rice or a plate of chow mein or dim sum. Afternoon "tea": a bowl of wonton noodle, or an egg sandwich with a cup of English tea. Dinner: usually ate at home or dined out in restaurants - some kind of stir-fried entrees. And Midnight light snack at around 11:00 pm: a bowl of congee again or wonton noodle or something

I think one of what prompted us to eat like a bird (less in each meal, but more often) is that in Hong Kong you have to walk everywhere - so unlike the USA. It is not wise to walk with a full stomach. The meal serving portions are typically smaller than those found in the US Chinese restaurants. And we are always on the run - which means most people may not even finish the food before they need to catch a bus, the subway, taxi, train, whatever. And the convenience of food offered in every corner - no need to drive to a restaurant for 30 minutes just to eat - makes it unnecessary to eat as much each time.

Living in the USA, my eating habit has completely changed. I don't eat breakfast because I usually get up late. Breakfast time is almost a border-line lunch time for some people. And sometimes I am down to just one meal a day: either have a late, big lunch or an early, big dinner.

I have been extremely busy lately. I am taking on many projects both in my professional and personal fronts. And I am going to school two night a week. And this week... being that it is Chinese New Year, it is crazy. I don't have time to cook as often lately. I hope this is not disappointing to some readers. But check out my published pictorial recipes in the China forum:

Chinese Food Pictorials, by hzrt8w

You would a pretty good idea on the kind of meals I make at home.

This week I will try my best to share the kind of food I eat on a regular basis. And... many pictures to come.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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This is what I had to munch on this morning.

My wife baked some "sweet potato chips". Fresh sweet potatoes, cut in thin slices, baked for about 10 to 15 minutes.

gallery_19795_4242_6001.jpg

This is one of those street snack food you will find in Hong Kong too. They bake/grill the sweet potatoes with charcoal, which adds some nice charcoal flavor to the sweet potatoes.

For drinks, I made some fresh soy milk. I recently bought an automatic soy milk machine and now I make soy milk at home about every week (sometimes every other week as I become busy).

Here is the whole set up:

gallery_19795_4242_11460.jpg

The machine is a plastic jar with a mechanized top. The round metal thing in the front is the filter and (double roled as) holder of soy beans. I buy packs of dried soy bean in the Asian grocery stores.

gallery_19795_4242_8983.jpg

One pack of these 14 oz dried soy bean (cost is about US$0.80) can produce about 5-6 64 oz bottles of soy milk. It is quite economical in the long run - provide that you don't factor in the labor you need to put in. It is a lot of work. But getting freshly made soy milk at home... priceless.

gallery_19795_4242_9511.jpg

The work begins the night before. Pour about 1/2 a pack of dried soy beans in a big bowl. This will make about 2-3 64oz bottles of soy milk - enough for us for the whole week. We keep the soy milk in the refrigerator, of course. Don't leave the soy milk in room temperature. Bacteria will get to it in a day or two to turn it into soya milk yogurt.

Soak the soy beans in water for 24 hours. Don't soak it for too long because the beans will start to sprout and become bean sprouts - unless you want to grow some to make your dinner.

gallery_19795_4242_11279.jpg

Feed the soaked soy beans through the chute into the metal filter/holder below.

gallery_19795_4242_14088.jpg

Fill the jar with water to the prescribed level. Turn the machine on. It is all automatic from here. You will hear the motor starts grinding the beans, and the heating coil starts boiling the water at the same time. It will go through a few cycles of grinding and continuous heating.

gallery_19795_4242_12638.jpg

Voila! About 15 minutes later, the soy milk is ready.

gallery_19795_4242_16726.jpg

One draw back is that making soy milk in these machines produces a lot of foam and suds.

gallery_19795_4242_10745.jpg

You need to use a fine filter to screen off the soy bean residues before drinking.

gallery_19795_4242_8761.jpg

Discard what's left inside the filter/holder.

gallery_19795_4242_7992.jpg

Fruit of the labor (or should I call it juice of the labor?): Fresh, hot soy milk made right at home with no additive.

I like mine plain (unsweetened), though many Chinese sweeten it with some sugar.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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OhMyHolySoy, FRESH soy milk!

I haven't had that in over 20 years! Thank you for blogging for us on this most festive week! Will we be having delicious pastries with you, as well? I hope so, I am missing my New Year's cake. And those myriad sweets that my friend's great grandmother would make, too... Ah, Leung! Thank you!

And, by the way, what do you mean, no refrigerator and pantry shots? There ought'a be a LAW!!!

PS: If you really want a treat, get yourself a newspaper grill for those sweet potato chips. It gives a fantastic flavor.

edited because, well, I'm on a lot of painkillers, jejeje!

Edited by Rebecca263 (log)

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Ah Leung, from one Sacramenten to another! Looking forward to seeing where you head off to this week. I would be totally interested in your opinion of which Asian markets are the best to go to, and what to look for, in terms of seafood, sauces, etc. I haven't had much experience in hanging out in the local establishments...enjoy your week.

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      A note on my use of ‘Sichuan’ rather than ‘Szechuan’.
       
      If you ever find yourself in Sichuan, don’t refer to the place as ‘Szechuan’. No one will have any idea what you mean!

      ‘Szechuan’ is the almost prehistoric transliteration of 四川, using the long discredited Wade-Giles romanization system. Thomas Wade was a British diplomat who spoke fluent Mandarin and Cantonese. After retiring as a diplomat, he was elected to the post of professor of Chinese at Cambridge University, becoming the first to hold that post. He had, however, no training in theoretical linguistics. Herbert Giles was his replacement. He (also a diplomat rather than an academic) completed a romanization system begun by Wade. This became popular in the late 19th century, mainly, I suggest, because there was no other!

      Unfortunately, both seem to have been a little hard of hearing. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked why the Chinese changed the name of their capital from Peking to Beijing. In fact, the name didn’t change at all. It had always been pronounced with /b/ rather than /p/ and /ʤ/ rather than /k/. The only thing which changed was the writing system.

      In 1958, China adopted Pinyin as the standard romanization, not to help dumb foreigners like me, but to help lower China’s historically high illiteracy rate. It worked very well indeed, Today, it is used in primary schools and in some shop or road signs etc., although street signs seldom, if ever, include the necessary tone markers without which it isn't very helpful.
       

      A local shopping mall. The correct pinyin (with tone markers) is 'dōng dū bǎi huò'.
       
      But pinyin's main use today is as the most popular input system for writing Chinese characters on computers and cell-phones. I use it in this way every day, as do most people. It is simpler and more accurate than older romanizations. I learned it in one afternoon.  I doubt anyone could have done that with Wade-Giles.
       
      Pinyin has been recognised for over 30 years as the official romanization by the International Standards Organization (ISO), the United Nations and, believe it or not, The United States of America, along with many others. Despite this recognition, old romanizations linger on, especially in America. Very few people in China know any other than pinyin. 四川 is  'sì chuān' in pinyin.
    • By Duvel
      In these challenging times, a full summer vacation is not an easy task. For the last 1.5 years we have been mostly at home with the clear plan to visit Catalonia (or more precise my wife’s family) latest this summer. And it looked good for a while. Unfortunately, the recent rise in case numbers in Spain have resulted in …
       
      OK, let’s skip this part. Long story short - my wife and me are fully vaccinated, as are >90% of the people we care about in Catalonia. After some discussion (after all, Germans tend to prefer to be on the safe side of things) we simply fueled up the car, got each a test (for the transit through France) and started to drive …
       
      After a leisurely 11h drive we arrived at a small fishing town somewhat north of Barcelona around 3.00am. We unloaded the car and my wife an the little one went straight to bed. 
       

       


      I found an expired beer in the elsewise pretty empty fridge and enjoyed the cool breeze on the terrace. Holidays, here we come …
       

    • By liuzhou
      An eG member recently asked me by private message about mushrooms in China, so I thought I'd share some information here.

      This is what available in the markets and supermarkets in the winter months - i.e now. I'll update as the year goes by.
       
      FRESH FUNGI
       
      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 which is sometimes called 白玉 菇 bái yù gū.
       

       

       
      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, Infundibulicybe gibba. 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.
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