Basic Chinese Pantry. Chinese Dried Mushrooms

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Chinese-Dried-Mushrooms_cBy the article "Basic Chinese Pantry. Bean Curd" we began a series of articles about Chinese Pantry. Here is the next text on this topic. It's about such product as Chinese Dried Mushrooms (they add a particular flavour and aroma to Chinese dishes). The Chinese never use them fresh, preferring their distinct, robust, smoky flavour and yielding texture when dried.


There are many grades of these wonderful mushrooms said to have been produced for more than 1000 years in southern China. Black or brown in colour, they add a particular flavour and aroma to Chinese dishes. The best are very large ones with a lighter colour and a highly cracked surface; they are usually the most expensive. As you may imagine, they are very popular in Chinese cookery. Dried food shops in China carry all grades heaped in mounds, with the more expensive grades elaborately boxed. Outside China they can be bought from Chinese grocers' in boxes or plastic bags. Chinese dried mushrooms are expensive but a little goes a long way. Keep them stored in an air-tight jar in a cool dry place. Fresh ones (popularly known as Shiitake mushrooms - a Japanese term) are not an adequate substitute; the Chinese never use them fresh, preferring their distinct, robust, smoky flavour and yielding texture when dried. They are used chopped and combined with meats, fish and shellfish. They are well worth the relatively short time it takes to prepare them as they add a rich flavour to food.

To use Chinese dried mushrooms, soak the mushrooms in a bowl of warm water for about 20 minutes or until they are soft and pliable. Squeeze out the excess water and cut off and discard the woody stems. Only the caps are used.

The soaking water can be saved and used in soups or for cooking rice. Strain through a fine sieve to discard any sand or residue from the dried mushrooms. Dried mushrooms are particularly useful if you are in a hurry and do not have time to make a stock. Their presence will cover a multitude of omissions.



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