Fat Choy or Black Moss
Fat choy, black moss, hair moss or hair weed
Traditional Chinese Name:
髮菜 (fa cai)
Black moss is neutral in nature and tasteless.
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
Looking to build your basic Chinese Soup Pantry?
Check it out in my video to learn more!