Mushrooms for Hakka recipes

king oyster mushroom, noodlesExplore the rich variety of mushrooms in Asia’s cuisine.  In China, these umami rich fungi delighted us with their versatility. In Luodai  a Hakka village near Chengdu in Sichuan province, we ate the local wild mountain mushrooms braised in broth and fried as fritters. In Yunnan province we sampled a dozen varieties in the famed mushroom hotpot.

Assorted mushrooms in Yunnan.

Assorted mushrooms in Yunnan.

In North America, some of these mushrooms are cultivated or imported from China. You will discover a wide variety in Asian supermarkets. I have always loved the dark, meaty, shiitake mushrooms. Dried shiitake reside in my pantry as a flavor-building staple.

A new discovery for me was the king oyster mushroom that goes by many names such as xing bao gu, shing bao goo, king trumpet, royal trumpet, or Trumpet Royale. With these big fleshy mushrooms their large, thick white bulbous stems predominate over their rather small light brown caps. Both stem and cap are edible. These mushrooms have a  firm, meaty texture that keeps their shape when cooked. Their mild flavor deepens and becomes more robust when cooked.

These large mushrooms are wonderfully versatile. In the Hakka Cookbook, I deep-fried them and served them with Sichuan Pepper Salt (page 68) and braised them in broth (page 70).

noodles with pork mushroom sauce 2In one of my favorite recipes, Noodles with Pork Mushroom Sauce (page 104), I diced and stir-fried the mushrooms with pork, shiitake mushrooms, and garlic chives to make a robust sauce for noodles. Recently I made a vegetarian version of this recipe by replacing the pork with more king oyster and shiitake mushrooms and vegetable broth for the chicken broth. I used Pearl River Bridge Mushroom-Flavored Dark Soy Sauce to intensify the flavor. To see the recipe, visit the Asia Society San Francisco Newsletter. The recipe was featured to promote an upcoming Off-the-menu dinner featuring Chef Martin Yan and me, discussing Hakka Soul Food at M.Y. China in San Francisco on March 3, 2014.  Hope to see you there.

Discover the delicious world of mushrooms. You’ll find great variety at the farmers’ market and Asian supermarkets. They are often interchangeable, although each variety contributes their own distinct personality.

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Garlic chives (aka Chinese chives)

Grass-like blades of Chinese chives add pungent garlic-onion essence.

I’ve been working my way through two pounds of garlic chives, also known as Chinese chives. I usually buy most of my produce at the farmers’ market, but sometimes they don’t have what I want. I needed about one cup thinly sliced garlic chives, probably four ounces would have been enough. So I went to the Asian supermarket 99 Ranch. The smallest package of garlic chives weighed in at two pounds. I was tempted to open the package and take out a small amount, but the package was taped shut and the package was already weighed and priced. Why do these big supermarkets package vegetables in such big quantities? Who wants 2 or 3 pounds of the same vegetable? If you own a restaurant or have a big family it might make sense, but I prefer to buy small quantities of several different kinds to eat throughout the week.

I bought the big package and made Noodles with Mushroom Pork Sauce (page 104), a wonderfully easy dish packed with flavor. It’s sort of like an Italian meat sauce with spaghetti, except this is Hakka style. Lots of stir-fried mushrooms, garlic chives, pork, and soy sauce make a dark savory sauce that spills over noodles and bean sprouts.

Now I have about 1 3/4 pounds of chives left. Luckily garlic chives are widely versatile. Use their pungent garlic-onion essence anywhere you use garlic and green onions which make a suitable substitute. The chives look much like grass with long green flat blades. Add them to stir-fried meats and vegetables, soups, dumpling fillings, and salads.

I have been making lots of Fried Eggs with Chives (page 80). This dish is so easy, it almost doesn’t need a recipe. It similar to an Italian fritatta, a golden fried egg pancake dense with  chives. You can make them any size, but I like to use a small pan like one used for omelets, because the eggs are easier to turn over.

Fried Eggs with Chives: Lightly beat 2 large eggs with a little salt and spoonful of water. Set a 6- inch frying pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add 1 tablespoon of oil, then 3/4 cup thinly sliced garlic chives. Cook just until chives are bright green and wilt, then stir the wilted chives into the beaten eggs. Return the pan to high heat, add 2 tablespoons more oil, then the egg mixture. As the egg sets up, lift up the cooked edges to let the raw egg flow underneath. When golden on bottom, turn the eggs over to brown the other side. Slide onto a plate and eat with a bowl of hot rice for a simple supper.

What are your favorite ways to use garlic chives?

 

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