Although technically not a vegetable, white fungus can still be placed among the most popular Chinese vegetables. It is also called snow ear fungus, silver ear fungus, white wood ear, and white tremella mushroom. As these names indicate, it is a type of fungus belonging to the mushroom family.
White fungus has been prized for its medicinal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor benefits. In Chinese families, it is commonly used in soups cooked for soothing purposes, like nourishing the body, healing dry coughs, and clearing heat in the lungs. Cooked with rock sugar in a sweet soup or with chicken in a savory version are among the popular preparation methods.
It is also said that eating white fungus can help keep one’s skin young, believing that its collagen content is comparable to edible bird’s nest. Bird’s nest costs 50 times more than white fungus. This explains why white fungus is dubbed “poor man’s bird nest.”
A few how-tos
How to soak white fungus
Cover dried white fungus with cold water (at least 3 to 4 times the quantity). Depending on the variety, it doubles in size in 10 to 15 minutes and turns from yellowish-white to semi-transparent. Soak it for about half an hour to one hour until it all becomes soft.
How to trim white fungus
Its bottom will remain firm even after soaking; trim this part off. After the hard bottom is trimmed away, just tear the fungus into small pieces, resembling petals. Then wash thoroughly and drain dry. Then it is ready for cooking in soups.
How to make white fungus sweet soup with pears
Pears and white fungus are always great together. In this recipe, they are combined to make a very tasty and refreshing soup that you really have to try.
- 2 pears, peeled, cut into 1″ (2.5 cm) cubes
- 10 red dates, seeded, cut in half
- 2-3 pieces white fungus
- 5 cups water
- 5 pieces rock sugar
- Soak snow ear fungus in water for half to an hour or until it has softened and roughly doubled in size. Discard the water. Trim the firm part from its bottom.
- Tear or cut the fungus into smaller pieces resembling petals. Wash them in a colander under running water to remove any dirt. Drain dry.
- Put white fungus, pear cubes, red dates, and water into a slow cooker. Bring them to a boil and cook for another 4 hours in a slow cooker). You may need a shorter boiling time if using a higher power cooker.
- Add sugar to the soup and boil until the sugar is dissolved, about 5-10 minutes.
- Serve hot and enjoy!