Well, you don’t see this dish everyday! It’s weird-looking and not particularly appealing at first glance, but this wood ear mushroom salad dish is literally on every menu in China.
One of Our Favorite Mushrooms
I wouldn’t have dared to share this Wood Ear Mushroom Salad recipe a few years back, as very few people outside of Asia know what this ingredient is. But now that we’ve included wood ears in many of our popular recipes from the past few years—like Moo Shu Pork, Moo Shu Chicken, and Chicken with Garlic Sauce—we’re going whole hog on you all with this delicious wood ear appetizer.
I love wood ears and eat them all the time. In my opinion, the wood ear in my Braised Chicken with Mushrooms are the best part of the dish. The wood ear mushroom itself has little taste on its own, but it does have a kind of crunchy texture which is quite unique and pleasant.
Also, one of the best reasons to enjoy a few wood ears is for its health benefits. Here’s a true story: our neighbor’s dog, Brooklyn, had a serious blood disease, and his veterinarian told my neighbor that Brooklyn only had a couple of months to live. BUT the good news is, Brooklyn is still with us, because my neighbor put him on a pill that’s made of what he described as “some kind of black fungus that grows on dead tree trunks.”
Of course, it made all the sense to me. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) books, I’ve read that wood ears can act like purifiers in the human body. They help clean your insides, including the digestive system and blood. They can help to improve energy and immune function, but the most appealing benefit to everyone is that they supposedly help to delay signs of aging!
Before I get myself into trouble by saying too much, feel free to turn to Google to read about all of wood ears’ benefits in detail!
This wood ears dish is a perfect side-dish to make year around. It’s fast and easy, and with its tangy flavor and crunchy texture, it’s actually very refreshing when the weather’s warm. It’s also a great dish to customize to your liking–for example, add a dash of Sichuan peppercorn oil or use our Homemade Chili Oil to add an extra kick.
Notes on Preparing Dried Wood Ears
Just a few things to remember:
- You should always use store-bought, dried wood ears (don’t try to forage for them yourself).
- Wood ear mushrooms must be cooked before consumption. Now’s not the time to pilot your raw foods diet.
- Don’t soak wood ears for more than 2-3 hours. They reconstitute in a relatively short amount of time.
- After soaking, trim off the tough stem area and wash thoroughly.
- Like anything that’s “good for you,” Traditional Chinese Medicine recommends pretty much everything in moderation.
In a medium-sized pot, cook the rehydrated wood ears in boiling water for 3-4 minutes.
Drain and rinse under cold running water to cool them completely. Set aside and let any excess water drain off. You can also use a salad spinner to get rid of the excess water.
In a large bowl, mix together the garlic, fresh red chili peppers, Chinese black vinegar, light soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil until the sugar dissolves. Next, add the wood ear mushrooms and mix well. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Serve your wood ear mushroom salad as a side dish or appetizer!