April 2022: New Shiitake and Cloud Ear Mushrooms and Recipes

April 21, 2022

Wood Ear Salad

Dried Cloud Ear Fungus + Flower Shiitake are HERE!

Plus, paojiao (pickled peppers) and caiziyou (roasted rapeseed oil) are back!

What do you do when you need a last-minute side or have a whole chicken to despatch? These recipes for 凉拌木耳 (liángbàn mù'ěr), wood ear salad with paojiao, and 炖鸡汤 (dùnjītāng), stewed chicken soup, are our answers to those questions.

They also show you how to use our new 云儿 (yún'er) dried cloud ear fungus, a premium grade wood ear, and 白花菇 (bái huāgū) dried white flower shiitake, a premium grade shiitake mushroom. These dry pantry staples keep indefinitely in a cool, dark place and rehydrate into liangban, stir-fry and stewing superstars!

Our shiitake mushrooms also make a great alternative for anyone trying to eat less meat. Take them for a spin in my new vegan mapo tofu recipe and learn some handy tips for keeping your tofu intact while cooking mapo tofu, vegan or not.

🌶Kathy & Mala Mama🌶

Wood Ear Mushroom (Cloud Ear Fungus, Yun Er)
Wood Ear Mushroom (Cloud Ear Fungus, Yun Er)

Wood ear is a family of fungi that are ear-shaped and grow on trees. This species of wood ear is the small and delicate cloud ear, which, being thinner and lighter, is easier to rehydrate to the perfect texture than the thick, coarse varieties. 

Many Chinese dishes call for wood ear mushrooms not so much for their flavor—which is slight—but for their chewy, jelly texture. They are just the right textural counterpoint to soft proteins or vegetables and also add a nice bit of color to lighter dishes.

My favorite wood ear salad above is sufficiently different to complement any spread. It’s slightly crunchy, but not from frying or baking, so it goes well with soft foods. It’s served with a wet dressing, so it goes well with dry foods. It’s cool and neutral flavored, so it offsets hot and spicy foods. It’s fresh, but not raw, and it’s a fungus, but not a cap-and-stem mushroom—so there’s never anything else quite like it.


Clarified Old Hen Soup (Dunjitang, 炖鸡汤)

It could be fancy three-yellow chicken, or TCM delicacy Silkie chicken—all suburban luxuries for Ma. Entire years go by without such chickens. And still, no matter the rarity, it’s always reserved for soup. For days afterward, we eat everything with or in this golden broth. Noodles, steamed egg, congee, chaoshou (pictured)—dunjitang makes it all better.

In fact, the more precious the chicken, the holier the dunjitang. But the holiest of all dunjitang is simple 老母鸡 (lǎomǔjī): old hen. Find out why in the recipe.
Shiitake Mushroom (White Flower Mushroom, Bai Hua Gu)
Shiitake Mushroom (White Flower Mushroom, Bai Hua Gu)

The widely loved shiitake mushroom is known in Chinese as 香菇 (xiānggū), or fragrant mushroom, due to its intense umami taste. And the very best is 白花菇 (bái huāgū), or white flower mushroom, because its cap features deep, white cracks that resemble a flower. 

Dried flower mushrooms lend a powerful, earthy aroma and flavor to all kinds of Chinese braises and soups, such as the chicken soup above. Soak our shiitake in cool-lukewarm water for 3-4 hours for best results. Contrary to many recipe recommendations, you don't need to throw away the stems as long as they're adequately rehydrated! Retain the flavorful mushroom water for use as a broth or flavoring agent, as in vegan mapo tofu.

Vegan mapo tofu

Vegan Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)

Mapo tofu is so beloved, it’s one of the few Sichuan dishes that make it directly into colloquial English without translation. So many regions have their own variations of the dish now too. It’s only natural that vegan mapo tofu has become popular on its own, so this recipe is for Chengdu-inspired mapo tofu with dried shiitake mushrooms.
Pickled Er Jing Tiao Chilies (Sichuan Pickled Chilies, Pao La Jiao)
Pickled Er Jing Tiao Chilies (Sichuan Pickled Chilies, Pao La Jiao)

Pickled er jing tiao chilies, 泡椒 (pàojiāo), made in Chengdu are back in stock. While I work on starting my own pickle jar from scratch, these packages of paojiao go a long way toward making every bite feel just a little more nostalgic.

Like all traditional Sichuan pickles, these chilies are naturally fermented and soured without the addition of vinegar. I love paojiao in stir-fries and cold salads but especially fish dishes—from all the water-boiled fish variations to classic Chengdu 烤鱼 (kǎoyú) grilled fish and, naturally, the infamous "fish-fragrant" dishes like this yu xiang pork that have no fish at all. 

Roasted Rapeseed Oil (Caiziyou)
Roasted Rapeseed Oil (Caiziyou)
Everybody's favorite Sichuan cooking oil is finally back in stock after a long sojourn at the Long Beach Port. 

Take it from Ruth Reichl: "The minute you toss a couple of tablespoons of their roasted rapeseed oil into a hot wok your kitchen starts smelling like a Chinese restaurant. It has a deliciously toasty aroma unlike any other oil I’ve encountered. I never want to be without it."

Or from Kenji Lopez-Alt in his new cookbook The Wok: "It's the cooking oil of choice in Sichuan, and if you've ever thought that your chile oil or mapo tofu is lacking a certain flavor you get only at your favorite Sichuanese restaurant, caiziyou is most likely the answer."

And from Xiuying W., one of many happy customers who have reviewed caiziyou: "It's a good choice and I'm glad I can find the taste of my hometown here."

This premium brand of cold-pressed caiziyou is a Mala Market exclusive. 

Oh, and if you missed out on our signed copies of The Wok last month, we have a new batch with bookplates signed for us by Kenji