This is one of those mysterious ingredients I’ve seen growing up as a child and consumer of Chinese cuisine, but it was more commonly seen in banquet dishes (as well as New Year’s) and was paired with black mushrooms.
Black moss in Chinese culture is a popular ingredient to use to bring you luck because of the sound of the name, although it literally translates to “hair vegetable”. The translation to bring you wealth is really “explode wealth”, meaning the sound of the name of this ingredient sounds like that phrase.
My mom has also told me that “the more you eat it, it’ll help you keep your hair black”. I’ve only made it a few times in both soups and stews and it’s not that difficult once you have figured out your flavour profile. They go super tasty with oyster sauce, but if you wanted to go vegetarian, you can use hoisin sauce instead!
It’s actually a type of bacteria that is dried to give the appearance of hair. It’s grown and harvested primarily in China. There have been some controversy around the authenticity of black moss because it’s been known to that some can be fake, especially when the prices go up during New Year’s. Just be sure you’re buying from a reputable source.
How do I prepare it?
To use hair moss, you rinse in cool water, drain, and let it soak for at least 30 minutes. It doesn’t get particularly soft over time in the water and will soften in heat. Use directly in soups or stews, as this what they are best used for.
To store, keep them in a dry, cool place. They have a very long shelf life so long as they are kept dried.
Where can I buy it and cost?
Black moss is available in most Asian supermarkets and wet mart at the dried food vendors
They come prepackaged in a plastic bag (to keep them dry)
The cost for black moss has a pretty wide range.
Some known precautions:
Be sure to buy from a reputable source as there are cases where they is fake black moss (the color also runs off)
There is also not a lot of known nutritional value in black moss
It is not an easily digest-able product. Try it! A lot of passes through the same way it went in 🙂
Some tips for using black moss:
I tend to let it soak a little bit longer (just to check its authenticity)
Black moss doesn’t have flavour itself, but does absorb the flavour of your soup or sauce, so let it bubble a bit to soak in those flavours
Look Ma! They’re blue! And yes they are. Definitely more common in Asia, they are also sometimes called black dates. Some black or blue dates are made by simply smoking their red counterparts. And you can definitely taste that smokey-ness when you soak them in teas or use them more pure. They taste slightly charred, bur fragrant, and are a more deep sweet versus the dried red dates. Sometimes, blue and black dates are used together with the red dates in teas and soups, or you can use blue dates as they are.
How do I prepare it?
You can use directly from its packaging and drop directly into soup or teas. Be sure to remove the seeds of the dates, as the seeds are super fiery and heaty, creating excess yang in the body. The dates themselves are already slightly warm, so we want to keep the heat in check.
Where can I buy it?
In most wet marts in Hong Kong
Available in your Chinese herbalist or Chinese medicine store
I’ve also seen this readily available in bulk packages as Chinese supermarkets
What is the cost?
A package of around 30 dates cost $40-$50 HKD
There are varying prices of blue dates depending on its rarity and quality
Blue and black dates are more expensive than their red counterparts
Dates are known to assist in maintaining healthy blood pressure and assist the stomach and spleen in poor appetites It is also commonly used to address stress in drinks and teas
Due to its sweetness, it is soothing to the throat and used to treat sore throats
Dates are an excellent source of Vitamin C
Dates are slightly warming and ideal for soups and teas where you want to create more warmth
Dates help with blood circulation, tonify blood and Qi
Be sure you are buying this ingredient from a reputable source
Store in a dry, cool place in a seal container to prevent mold or spoilage
Herbal teas is an amazing category of Chinese drinks that are more purposeful and intentional in its creation and consumption. They aren’t always medicinal and have some more common ingredients that we always drink because they taste so good!