Only a few years ago, we went back to my hometown in China to see my parents, my dad ordered this once in a restaurant. I totally fell in love with it.
It is traditionally prepared only with Chinese black fungus and cucumber. But, one day, I had some fried peanuts left, and I was just looking for a way to finish them off. So, I put the peanuts into the dish, and it worked, and it combines so well with ‘old vinegar’. So I started adding peanuts in. However, the peanuts are totally optional.
About Black Fungus
There is a lot to say about this ‘Black fungus’. It is a kind of Chinese mushroom, the most famous one is from the mountains called ‘Da Xing An Ling’ crossing the whole three Northeast provinces.
In UK, you can find them in most Chinese supermarkets, and sometime also in the ‘foreign food’ sections of regular supermarkets. However, the one that you can find in the ‘foreign food’ section of standard supermarkets often comes from Japan, it is sold in a little glass jar containing only a few pieces, and it is quite expensive. I honestly cannot tell the difference with the ones we have in Northeast, so it is probably better to buy them in a Chinese supermarket (and if they are produced in Northeast, even better).
It is sold dry, and needs to be soaked before cooking it. The black fungus will double or triple its size after soaking. So, every time I go back home, I always carry lots of them back, they can last forever.
Black fungus in Chinese are called ‘Mu Er’, which literally means ‘the ear lobe of the wood’. It normally can be cooked in soup, stir fried, or in salad. It is extremely nutritious and healthy: it helps with iron intake and blood pressure. And in this dish, adding up the peanut (with niacin, fiber, vitamin E…) and old vinegar (helping digestion and blood circulation, anti-aging..etc), it cannot be healthier.
- Mu’er (black fungus), cucumber, peanuts.
- Oil, salt, old vinegar (if you don’t have it at home, you can use rice vinegar instead, however the taste can be a bit different), anise star, cinnamon stick, wasabi (optional), mushroom or vegetable essence (optional).
- Soak the ‘Mu er’ (black fungus) into hot water for 15- 20 minutes, until it is tender (every bit is stretched out), wash out thoroughly, and tear it into smaller parts. (It can also be boiled if you think it is difficult to soak to tender).
- Chop the cucumber diagonally into thin slices.
- Fry the peanuts in the hot oil, let it cool down afterward.
- Heat around 4-5 table spoons of oil in the wok, then put a few anise stars and a couple of cinnamon sticks in the hot oil.
- Remove the anise stars and cinnamon sticks from the oil. Allow the oil to cool down.
- Mix tendered ‘Mu er’ (black fungus), sliced cucumber and fried peanuts together in a salad bowl, then add in ‘flavored oil’ (from step 1), 1 teaspoon of white sugar, 2-3 tablespoons of old vinegar, half teaspoon of salt, half teaspoon of mushroom or vegetable essence (optional) and squeeze in a bit wasabi (if you like).
If you like, you can also put in ‘minced’ garlic and chopped spring onion, and a few drops of chili oil.