Woo! Recipe time again! In TCM food medicine theory, Spring time means we can slowly begin introducing cooler foods to our diets. As long as they are alchemically balanced with a reasonable combination of elements which have cold, cool, warm and hot natures and properties, they are healthy and delicious too. Following are instructions for making an amazing dish they eat in mainland China, made of really odd looking but *fantastic* tasting black cloud fungus. “OMG! Fungus! How gross! You can’t be serious!” I hear you say, already. Well, just go get the traditional Chinese ingredients from the lovely Lisa at This Little Piggy Market, and give this dish a try. It’s REALLY yummy and fully worth the 15 minutes of your life that it takes to make it.
Start with this:
Dried Premium Grade Black Fungus. You really don’t need much of the dried ingredient at all. It comes in 100g bags and to serve 2, as a side dish – which it is – it inflates to take up much more space once you get to the next step. Put about 25g in a bowl, in its dried form. It needs to be a big bowl as it will expand significantly. A bit like one of those “just add water” dinosaur toys from the 80’s. But clearly not plastic.
Just Add Water! – *boiling* water, that is, just from the kettle, enough to cover the dried ingredient and reconstitute it to its original form. Step away from the bowl.
Allow the water to absorb for about 20 minutes. Once it has, it will look like the picture to the right. Drain off excess water and set aside.
Get your herbaceous flavourings ready:
1 red chilli, seeds removed.
This picture has one of the larger European varieties but Thai bullet chillies are ideal. All ingredients here are modifiable – If chilli gives you reflux, just omit it, and add something different instead. Or you can leave it out entirely.
1 clove of garlic, minced with the side of your knife, using salt as an abrasive. This technique releases more volatile oils from the garlic and not only gives it a stronger flavour but helps it go much further. If you can’t figure this out, don’t cut yourself! Just practice with a butter knife, or ask someone who knows how to do it to help you. Or just use a garlic crusher.
A small handful of Coriander leaves, stripped from their stems. You can also mix in some chopped mint – Vietnamese mint is ideal but European mint will work as well. Perilla leaves are also a great Asian herb flavour but in some areas they aren’t readily available. If you can get your hands on some, add a couple of shredded leaves in. In Chinese med we use Perilla leaves (Zi Su Ye) for colds & flu so the combo of these and the mint leaves are great as food medicine if you are getting a lurgie.
Also add fresh ginger to the finely diced mix, around the same amount as the other ingredients – all about the size of a regular garlic clove each. Also used widely in Chinese medicine, ginger is great for the tummy and, along with garlic, alters the nature of cold food so it becomes lightly warming and doesn’t have too much impact on the digestion.
Now for the yummy sauce!
About a tablespoon of grated palm sugar. (Don’t freak out, it’s not evil like palm oil. Turns out it’s quite sustainable. Some lovely people wrote an interesting article about the differences between palm sugar & palm oil, if you’re interested in reading it.) Palm sugar actually serves as a pretty good replacement for cane sugar. It’s low on the processing and has a lower glycaemic index (GI) than cane sugar. Plus it has a bit more of an interesting flavour and a little bit of back palate action.
Up to 1/4 cup of light soy sauce, or use tamari if you’re gluten free. You can mix & match the Soy/Vinegar balance depending on your taste – are you Liverish (Sour, vinegar), or Kidney (Salty) deficient? From a Chinese food medicine perspective, each of these drives the tonifying properties of the black fungus to one (or both) of those organs. Salty foods have an affinity for the Kidneys in TCM physiology, and Sour to the Liver.
Following that rationale, Black vinegar – whilst it *is* vinegar and therefore Sour, the flavour of the Liver – is also black, which additionally drives it to the Kidneys, according to TCM correspondences. This recipe calls for 1-2 tablespoons, depending on the taste of the person eating the dish.
So you’re on the home stretch now. Time to add the palm sugar, chilli, garlic & ginger to the soy/vinegar mix.
Throw in a dash of Thai fish sauce – careful not to use too much, otherwise your meal will be REALLY salty and may smell a bit like old socks. On top of that, add a teaspoon of sesame oil and shake or whisk the liquid to emulsify it.
Pour the liquid dressing over the reconstituted and cooled black fungus. Add your sliced spring onions and combine. Garnish with coriander and sprinkle with sesame seeds. It will look, and taste, amazing. I hope you dig it.
Whilst food is fun, interesting and creative, it isn’t advisable to eat too much of certain things if you have a particular constitutional type, or if it is a particular season. If you want some recipes that suit your constitution, or some general dietary advice from a TCM perspective, why not book in for a consultation? Find a time here.