Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Friday Food 5 – Fungi

Friday food is a weekly article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This week, in a spirit of alliteration, Friday food five is full of fungi. Today, we will be looking at the fresh mushrooms available in Liuzhou’s markets and supermarkets. Dried varieties are in Friday Food 7.

Hover your mouse pointer over any Chinese to see an enlargement and the Pinyin.

December sees the arrival of what most westerners deem to be the standard mushroom – the button mushroom, Agaricus Bisporus (小蘑菇 or 双孢蘑菇). 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 get stuck in.

Button mushrooms

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, which literally means “tasty mushroom”, these meaty babies are used in many dishes ranging from stir fries to hot pots

Fresh shiitake mushrooms

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.

Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus)

The picture above is of the common oyster mushroom, but Liuzhou’s shops aren’t common, so they have a couple of other similar but different varieties.

Pleurotus geesteranus – 秀珍菇

Pleurotus geesteranus, 秀珍菇 are a particularly delicate version of the oyster mushroom family and usually used in soups and hot pots.

凤尾菇, literally “Phoenix tail mushroom”, is a more robust, meaty variety which is more suitable for stir frying.

Pleurotus Jurca – 凤尾菇

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. 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.

Pleurotus eryngii – king oyster mushroom – 杏鲍菇

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 or 玉皇菇, 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.

Shimeji mushrooms – brown beech mushrooms

Shimeji mushrooms normally grow in bunches as seen above, but sometimes, depending on the growing condition, they  take on a different shape and grow individually. They are then known as Jade Gill mushrooms (海鲜菇, literally “seafood mushroom”). They are sweet flavoured and are often used in cold dishes or soups, but I like them with poached fish.

Jade Gill Mushrooms 海鲜菇

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) and silver (银针菇)). They are very delicate, both in appearance and taste, and are usually added to hot pots.

Golden enoki mushrooms – 金針菇

Silver enoki mushrooms – 银针菇

Then we have these fellows – tea tree mushrooms (茶树菇). 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.

Tea tree mushroom – 茶树菇

Then there are the delightfully named 鸡腿菇 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.

Shaggy ink cap – Chickens leg – Coprinus comatus – 鸡腿菇

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). 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 are also available canned here.

Straw mushrooms – 草菇

Then there are the curiously named Pig Stomach Mushrooms (猪肚菇). These are another favourite. They make a lovely mushroom omelette. Also, a summer find.

Pig Stomach Mushroom – 猪肚菇

And finally, not a mushroom, but certainly a fungus and available fresh is the wood ear (木耳). 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.

Fresh wood ear fungus – 木耳

Please note that where I have given Chinese names, these are the most common around here, but variations do exist and it is not unusual for the supermarkets to mis-label things. Go by the pictures and happy mushrooming!

The picture above is of the common oyster mushroom, but Liuzhou’s shops aren’t common, so they have a couple of other similar but different varieties.

Tags: , , , , , , . This entry was posted on Friday, December 16th, 2011 at 10:00 am and is filed under Food and Drink, Friday Food. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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