– Liang cai: Mu’er (black fungus)
|Chinese black fungus salad|
I was born in late July, the hottest time in Northeast China, love the sun and the hot, I mean really hot weather. ( At least, I think this the reason why.:))) When I was in China, every summer, everyone would tell me that I lost lots of weight…. How nice! :)) Well, one of the reasons for this was that I never stopped moving around, even in the hottest days. Another reason is that I love eating ‘Liang Cai’ (Chinese salad, or literally ‘cool dish’) in the summer — little or no oil, low fat, mainly vegetables, healthy, how could I not lose weight? :) The taste is … super fresh, perfect for the ‘summer stomach’.
For the past couple of weeks, the weather has been so so so .. good, amazing for April in the UK. So I have been making a lot of different ‘liang cai’ dishes these days: partly because of the good weather, but partly also because of a feeling of nostalgia towards summer in my hometown.
This is one of the dishes. I am not sure whether this particular one can be labeled as ‘traditional Northeast Chinese dish’, at least I don’t remember having it when I was living in China. Only a few years ago, we went back to my hometown to see my parents, my dad ordered this once in a restaurant. I totally fell in love with it.
It is originally prepared only with Chinese black fungus and cucumber. But, one day, I had some fried peanuts left, and I was just looking for a way to finish them off. So, I put the peanuts into the dish, and — it worked, and it combines so well with ‘old vinegar’. :)) So I started adding peanuts in. However, the peanuts are totally optional.
|Chinese black fungus|
Chinese Black Fungus
There is a lot to say about this ‘Black fungus’ — it is a kind of Chinese mushroom, the most famous one is from the mountains called ‘Da Xing An Ling’ crossing the whole three Northeast provinces. In UK,
you can find them in most Chinese supermarkets, and sometime also in the ‘foreign food’ sections of Sainsbury’s and Tesco. However, the one that you can find in the ‘foreign food’ section of standard supermarkets often comes from Japan, it is sold in a little glass jar containing only a few pieces, and it is quite expensive. I honestly cannot tell the difference with the ones we have in Northeast China, so it is probably better to buy them in a Chinese supermarket (and if they are produced in Northeast, even better). It is sold dry, and needs to be soaked before cooking it. The black fungus will double or triple its size after soaking. So, every time I go back home, I always carry lots of them back, they can last forever. There are also some compacted ones in little boxes — not highly recommended, as after soaking in water, they will fall apart in small pieces.
‘Black fungus’ in Chinese are called ‘Mu Er’, which literally means ‘the ear of the wood’. It normally can be cooked in soup, stir-fried, or in salad. It is super nutritious — has lots of properties for iron intake and blood pressure…etc. And in this dish, adding up the peanut (with niacin, fiber, vitamin E…) and old vinegar (helping digestion and blood circulation, anti-aging..etc), it cannot be healthier. :))
The recipe: Chinese black fungus salad
Mu’er (black fungus), cucumber, peanut
Oil, salt, old vinegar (if you don’t have it at home, you can use rice vinegar instead, however the taste can be a bit different), anise star, cinnamon stick, wasabi (optional), mushroom or vegetable essence (optional)
1) Soak the ‘Mu er’ (black fungus) into hot water for 15- 20 minutes, until it is tender (every bit is stretched out), wash out thoroughly, and tear it into smaller parts. (It can also be boiled if you think it is difficult to soak to tender).
2) Chop the cucumber diagonally into thin slices.
3) Fry the peanuts in the hot oil, let it cool down afterwards.
Cooking (more like mixing all the ingredients together)
1) Heat around 4-5 table spoons of oil in the wok, then put a few anise stars and a couple of cinnamon sticks in the hot oil.
2) Remove the anise stars and cinnamon sticks from the oil. Allow the oil to cool down.
3) Mix tendered ‘Mu er’ (black fungus), sliced cucumber and fried peanuts together in a salad bowl, then add in ‘flavored oil’ (from step 1), 1 teaspoon of white sugar, 2-3 tablespoons of old vinegar, half teaspoon of salt, half teaspoon of mushroom or vegetable essence (optional) and squeeze in a bit wasabi (if you like).
|Black fungus and cucumber salad|
—– Mix everything together well, done! :))
How simple! If you like, you can also put in ‘minced’ garlic and chopped spring onion and a few drops of chili oil.
You know, if you are thinking of preparing dumplings, this Liang Cai dish is just perfect as a side dish!! :)
- Black fungus
- Old vinegar
- Anise star
- Cinnamon stick
- Mushroom or vegetable essence (optional)
- Soak black fungus in hot water for 15- 20 minutes.
- Wash out thoroughly and tear it into smaller parts.
- Chop the cucumber diagonally into thin slices.
- Fry the peanuts and let them cool down