Don’t let the name scare you off. This is a really, REALLY delicious dish that you’ve gotta try (if you haven’t already). I’m a huge fan of crunchy black fungus and I’ve been eating a lot of it lately at my favorite Sichuan Restaurant here in Singapore, Sichuan Village on Mosque Street in Chinatown. Served cold, in a vinegary sauce, it’s a fantastic compliment to fiery dishes. Also known as cloud ear mushroom, wood ear, or tree ear, it has a very mild earthy flavor and a slightly rubbery texture that’s similar to crunchy seaweed. Tonight I cooked up a hot and spicy mapo tofu so I made this salty, pickle-y, vinegary dish to go along with it.
Most recipes will call for black rice vinegar, but I used regular rice vinegar because it was what I had on hand. I also used a dark soy sauce here. There’s some added salt here because the dish needed to be saltier, and I didn’t want to go overboard with the flavor of soy. You also don’t have to pick the cilantro leaves from the stalks. The stems are fresh and flavorful so leave them in.
Black fungus grows on dead wood and is dried after harvesting. It’s then often reconstituted till it’s pliable before packaging to sell in supermarkets (I haven’t worked with the dried stuff). It looks like it might be slimy, but it’s not. It stays nice and crunchy even when you cook it. It’s a great addition to a stir fry.
Black Fungus Salad
Note: Chill salad for an hour for the flavors to meld and soak into the black fungus a bit. The flavors are even better the next day, but the sacrifice is that the texture loses just a tad of crunchiness.
Serves 2 to 4 as a side dish
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1 clove garlic, grated
a few drops sesame oil
300 g (10.5 ounces) black fungus, rinsed and then patted dry (leave whole)
1 bunch cilantro, washed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces, stems included
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, salt, chili flakes, garlic, and sesame oil.
- Stir in the black fungus and refrigerate for 1 hour. Stir in cilantro and serve.