Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 10 – Black fungus is a popular ingredient in Asian cooking. It is called “hei mu er” 黑木耳 (literally black wood ear) in Chinese, and is also called wood ear mushroom and cloud ear mushroom. When it grows on mountainous trees, it supposedly resembles an ear. They contain a toxic substance when fresh so are usually dried in the sun and sold, then they must be soaked before cooking. When rehydrating, they should be rinsed until the water is clear. They don’t really have any taste, but absorb the flavor of what you cook them with. They are considered a jelly fungus, and when cooked, although they soften, they keep a nice texture. We like black fungus and have eaten it often in restaurants. We decided to try cooking with it ourselves, saw some fresh and bought it. We didn’t know about it having a poisonous substance when fresh until we got home and looked up how to cook it! We weren’t sure if what we bought was actually fresh or rehydrated, so we soaked it a little and cooked it! We didn’t get sick, but I think we’ll try the dried next time after reading about it!
Black fungus is used for various treatments in TCM; It is very high in iron, nourishes the blood, increases circulation, reduces cholesterol, is good for detoxing digestive system, and is considered good for weight loss.