Monkey Head Mushroom

Ingredient Name: Monkey head mushroom, Hericium erinaceus, Lion’s mane mushroom, pom pom mushroom, bearded head mushroom

Chinese Name: 猴頭菇 (hóu tóu gū)

A very unique looking mushroom that is commonly used in Asia in soups.  I haven’t seen this product before (especially fresh) in North America, but there is the potential that it exists dried.  There are variants of this mushroom available in North America, I myself just hasn’t eaten it.  Obviously, I am not a big mushroom fan, haha, but this texture and taste is quite interesting.

What is this?
  • A type of mushroom in the fungus group that grows spines out of the tree (rather than a branch like most mushrooms)
  • Often beige in color when it is fresh (or raw) and when dried, it turns into a yellow-ish brown color
  • It’s texture is similar to that of a sponge
  • The monkey head mushroom is used to replace meat in vegetarian dishes (such as pork or beef)
  • It is considered a medicinal mushroom in Chinese Medicine
  • A rubbery and bouncy texture when boiled in soups and tasteless

How do I prepare it?

  • Soak in warm water before usage
  • Cut into slices or cubes (for eating) when cooked in soups

Where can I buy this?

  • Monkey head mushrooms can be purchased fresh or dried in Asian supermarkets and wet marts
  • It is a seasonal purchase and not always available

What is the cost?

  • A pack of 2 fresh monkey head mushrooms cost around $20 HKD

Any benefits?

  • Monkey head mushrooms are said to regulate blood lipid and and may reduce blood glucose levels

Any precautions?

  • It is considered a Chinese medicine and should be consumed in moderation as there is limited research on the ingredient

Any substitutes?

  • Other mushrooms such as the king trumpet mushroom (or king oyster  mushroom) with similar texture and taste

Picture of dried monkey head mushroom

Water Chestnuts and Pork Spring Soup

Soup Name:  Water Chestnuts and Pork Spring Soup

Traditional Chinese Name: 馬蹄豬湯 (matí zhū tāng)
 
Introduction:
With Spring just around the corner, this simple and hearty soup is a perfect way to welcome in the warming weather.   This soup, along with a simple bowl of brown rice, served as dinner for my whole family, including our two-year old daughter.   Water chestnuts add a delicious sweetness, a crunchy texture and creates a “cool” soup perfect for the season.   Add in some hearty beans and vegetables to round out the meal.

What Ingredients are required?

1 pound of fresh pork meat (or pork bones)
3 carrots
8 chinese mushrooms
1 handful of dried black beans
15 – 20 pieces water chestnuts
2-3 L of water

How do I prepare it?

  1. If using pork bones, pre-marinate the pork with the salt and let it sit for at least an hour (overnight is best)
  2. Begin boiling your soup water
  3. Boil a separate pot to blanch pork
  4. Soak black beans and chinese mushrooms
  5. Chop chinese mushrooms into quarters or slices
  6. Wash, peel and cut carrots
  7. When water boils, add all the ingredients together
  8. Boil for at least 1 hour (longer if you wish the snow fungus softer)
  9. Serve and enjoy!

Any benefits?

  • Water Chestnuts are a relatively cooling food and can help relieve coughs
  • Pork contains many nutrients (including 6 essential vitamins) and is a good source of iron, zinc, Vitamin B6 and protein
  • Black beans are an excellent source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, iron, manganese and high quality protein
  • An easy, hearty and nutritious soup!
Chinese Mushrooms

Chinese Mushrooms

Chinese Mushrooms

Ingredient Name:

Dried chinese Mushrooms, dried shiitake mushrooms, 

Traditional Chinese Name:

冬菇 (dōng gū)

Video on “How to Prepare Mushrooms for Chinese Cooking” on YouTube. 

This is a MUST HAVE in your Chinese soup (or cooking) pantry!  It can be used for soups, stews, stir-fry, herbal drinks, or hot pots and has a very flavourful taste (and sometimes a more unique smell depending if you like it or not) which enhances whatever it is you’re making.

These typically come dried and you’ll see all sorts of sizes, shapes, and colours (ranging from dark brown to light brown and various patterns).  Shiitake mushrooms are the most commonly used mushrooms in the Chinese cuisine and their Chinese name comes from the fact that they are grown in colder climates.

How do I prepare it?

    These little mushrooms come pretty hard and firm (they are dried after all) and need a good soak before they are usable in any form.
    I’ll usually use 5-6 in a soup and soak them in cool water for an hour, rotating them once in awhile to ensure they’re fully submerged.  Once the stems and the body becomes soft, sponge-like, and malleable, you can remove the stems or slice them as needed.
    You can also watch our “Mushrooms:  How to use them in Chinese Food!”  video on  YouTube.
      There’s also a great video section in this video on using vegetarian options in place of meats in “Amazing Substitutes for Meats in Chinese Soups”.

Where can I buy it and cost?

      • You can purchase these from most Asian supermarkets prepackaged
      • You can also purchase this in bulk from specialty stores (online herbal shops)
      • Be sure that you’re buying from a reputable source
      • The price range of these mushrooms is insane!  And I thought they were only mushrooms!  Supermarkets normally carry a package of 200g for less than $10 CAD
      • However, at the specialty shops, I have seen these for way more!  They scale almost similarly to dried scallops where you can cheaper ones or more expensive ones.  To be honest, if you’re using them in soups, normal ones will do.  Sometimes, they have perfectly round, large ones when they make wedding or Chinese New Year’s dishes (like the mushrooms and fat choy dish).

Any benefits?

      • Shiitake mushrooms are amazing source of fiber, including Vitamin B
      • They are known to contain equivalent amounts of amino acids as meat, making them great substitutes for meat
      • The taste of dried shiitake mushrooms are acquired, but pack a punch in flavour when added to soups and stews
      • They are immune boosting and have antioxidant properties
      • You can use these in a variety of soups and stews and can be found in many recipes

Any precautions?

      • Be sure you are buying these from a reputable source as there are cases where they are fake

      • I like to soak them and then rub them a bit to ensure they’re clean.  This is to remove any potential drying agents or additives that are added as part of the drying process.

      • Be sure to soak them for at least an hour until they are soft or they’ll be hard to digest

Looking to build your basic Chinese Soup Pantry?

Check it out in my video to learn more!

 

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