Stir-Fried Cucumber with Wood Ear Mushrooms – Huang Gua Mu’Er
I didn’t know what the heck wood ear mushrooms where when Fen first plonked them down in front of me. Small, black and leathery-looking once cooked, they weren’t like no mushroom I’d seen before. As it turned out though they’re very tasty and fairly common in Chinese cooking, forming the basis of many tasty stir-fries including this one: stir-fried cucumber with wood ear mushrooms.
What are Wood Ear Mushrooms?
Although native to China, wood ear mushrooms are common across many types of Asian cuisine, and are also known as ‘tree ear’, ‘muknge’, and ‘black fungus’. The Chinese name for them is ‘hei mu’er’, so look out for the characters ‘黑木耳’ in the Chinese supermarket. In any case they’re pretty easy to identity, being small and brittle before preparation. Most recipes (including this one) require you to soak the mushrooms beforehand, making the mushrooms swell and unfurl, and giving them a smooth and slightly chewy consistency. Okay, they’re not quite flavoursome enough to liven up Fen’s breakfast conjee (sorry Fen, I just find conjee sooo dull), but they make a great addition to many other dishes.
Another aspect of this dish you may not have experienced before is stir-fried cucumber – something that I wasn’t convinced by on paper, but in reality actually tastes really good. The cucumbers still retain their juiciness, and in any case the potato flour will give the whole thing a deliciously silken texture.
Stir-fried cucumber with wood ear mushrooms is a landmark dish on Feeding Fen because I managed to get permission from Fen herself to take a picture of her as she eats! She’s actually wearing a coat while inside on a warm day in the below picture for some reason, but I’ve long learned not to question her Chinese logic, and I’d advise you to do the same.
The important thing is she seems to be genuinely smiling as she eats, and we passed an entire weekend without her beating me over the head with a frying pan – definitely one to cook again soon.
- A handful of dried wood ear mushrooms
- 100g cucumber
- 1 spring onion
- ½ red chilli 2tbsp cooking oil
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tbsp garlic, sliced
- 1 tbsp ginger, sliced
- Light salt sauce to taste
- ¼ tsp potato flour mixed with 1 tsp cold water
- Boil water in a kettle then pour over wood ear mushrooms. Keep submerged for about 30 minutes
- Cut the cucumber lengthways into thin slices. then cut again at any angle to make small lozenge-shaped slices
- Drain the wood ear mushroom, and tear into smaller pieces if necessary. Cut the spring onion and chilli into small, diagonal slices
- Heat a wok and stir-fry the ginger, garlic, chilli and spring onion. Add the cucumber and wood ear mushrooms and stir-fry until hot and fragrant
- Add 1 tbsp water, and season with salt and light soy sauce. Pour in the potato flour mixture slowly, stirring vigorously. Give a last stir, then serve
Based on a recipe from Fuchsia Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking