Bringing a bit of glamour to 'Wood Ear' mushrooms
Depending on whether or not you've had 'Wood Ear' mushrooms before, this will either look terrifying or, alternatively, just delicious.
'Wood Ear' mushrooms are crunchy, flappy morsels that can absorb a lot of seasoning. They don't have much flavour by themselves, but are very healthy and blend in well with a variety of spices. I first started eating these when I lived in Beijing years ago, where the popular Sichuan restaurants would douse these mushrooms in chili oil.
They are traditionally served cold in Sichuan as a salad, but of course can also be offered warm. At home I just ate it with some local brown rice:
- Chicken stock - Prepare by combining water with any kind of leftover chicken bones/meat, then add an onion/celery/carrot and reduce)
- 'Wood Ear' mushrooms
- Spring onions
- Heirloom dried peppers
- Thoroughly clean the dried 'Wood Ear' mushrooms so that there is no sand, and soak for 1-2 hours.
- Boil in reduced chicken stock for around half an hour (depending on the thickness of the mushroom). Less time will mean more crunchy, and more time will mean smoother and soft texture.
- Serve with spring onions and/or dried peppers.
On a recent trip to China we found a woman selling dried heirloom peppers, which come in a beautiful variety of colours. We asked her to grind them all up, and brought back two bags home. The best thing about this spice is that rather than simply bringing heat to the dish, the aromatics are almost floral.
As for wine? Simple. Pair spicy with either off-dry white wines like Rieslings or Chenin Blanc, or pour Grower Champagne. In this case with mushrooms, we prefer using Blanc de Noirs, which means a Champagne made with only red grapes like Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The richness and dried fruit character of Blanc de Noirs works best with earthy mushrooms.
Cedric Bouchard - Inflorescence 'Val-Vilaine' Blanc de Noirs Brut NV (2011)
This is the definition of precision in a bottle of Champagne. All the flavours are challenging, measured, and the acidity is so focused. This is a single vineyard and single vintage Pinot Noir. We have the lowest price in Hong Kong for Cedric Bouchard.
Chartogne-Taillet - 'Les Alliés' Blanc de Noirs Extra Brut NV (2008)