Any mushrooms will do but wild ones have more flavour.
1 small cooking onion, chopped finely
2 tablespoons oil
1 pound fresh wild mushrooms, any variety, washed with stems separated from the tops
Freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
3 cups water, divided
2 cup whole milk or light 10% cream or 1 cup 35% cream
1 tablespoon dried parsley
Optional: ¼ cup of dry white wine
Stir-fry chopped onion is a medium pot or wok. Onions are completely cooked when they are translucent.
Finely chop the stems of the mushrooms, add them to the onions along with several twists of fresh black pepper and salt to taste. Add one cup of hot water, stir and cook for 10 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft. Remove from the heat and leave in the pot or wok. When cooled, use a handheld blender to puree the mixture.
Thinly slice and then roughly chop the tops of the mushrooms. Add the mushrooms and the remaining ingredients to the wok. Stir and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the mushrooms are well cooked. Stir occasionally and add more water if the soup becomes too thick.
Garnish bowls of soup with a sprinkling of parsley.
“Roz Weitzman’s World of Chinese Comfort Food – Simple Everyday Cooking For Novice and Experiences Chefs Alike” – ePublished at Amazon:
Author’s Page: amazon.com/author/rozweitzmansworld
“Roz Weitzman’s World of Chinese Comfort Food – Simple Everyday Cooking For Novice and Experiences Chefs Alike” – ePublished at Lulu:
– where it will also be made available at the iBookstore and the Barnes and Noble NOOK bookstore™ in the very near future.
My local wet market is a convenient distance from my apartment, about 2 city blocks. A few times a week, I walk over to see the freshest and newest veggies and fruit of the season. Over the years I’ve learned that one should follow what the locals are eating. In that way I eat fresh and high quality produce. Locals go to the market for their food supplies each day. But early morning isn’t usually the best time to get fresh things. It’s widely known that this produce is left overs from the day before, so later in the day is a good time to shop.
Skins of pomello are taken off the fruit by making regular cuts into the skin and then removing the fruit all in one go!
When I first began living in China the wet market was a scary place for me. The strange smells, so many completely foreign products and produce, different methods of doing daily business with no prices marked and the almost complete lack of cleanliness were overwhelming to me. Stacks of eggs of all kinds, shapes and sizes like small quail eggs, preserved duck eggs, and large ostrich eggs were daunting. I didn’t like buying eggs that weren’t refrigerated, or meat that was left out in the open, covered with flies, not to mention the animal parts hanging from hooks. Quite strange to me were the meats cut on chopping boards made from slices of tree trunks with a metal ring and two handles attached around the outside. But now it seems perfectly normal to me, maybe better than those plastic cutting boards we are all using these days!
Squabs or quails are cooked in turning roasting ovens and sold whole. The smells are enticing.
Getting used to the units of measurements was a bit difficult at first, but quickly I got to know the measures. Chinese foods are sold by the ‘jin’ which is 500 grams or a little over one pound and vendors will usually quote the price per jin. Smaller measures are ‘ke’ which is a gram, and ‘liang’, a tenth of a jin or 50 grams. And purchasing from the same vendors is to your benefit, building a relationship of trust and friendliness.
You won’t find fresh herbs at the local wet market; the closest thing you will find is cilantro and now in this southern climate I can buy fresh mint. I’ve got a new recipe for mint and green onion that I am looking forward to preparing, so that will likely be my next post. Cilantro is plentiful and a fantastic herb to use in dressings, sauces, soups and is added to all main dishes both for colour and splendid taste. Multiple varieties of garlic, ginger, and green onions also make cooking a real treat.
As time has gone on, I grown to love my trips to the market, even regularly trying new things that I’ve never eaten before. This local cake is sold by vendors on street corners. I’ve wanted to try it but felt I’d be getting too heavy a dose of dirt along with the cake so I never did. But the man sells his cake covered well and therefore the hygiene seemed better. The cake is sprinkled with sesame seeds…I love sesame seeds… and has the taste of a ginger/honey cake. A little on the dry side but nice just the same.
Now shopping at the local “wet” markets is always extremely rewarding. Not only are the financial rewards great, with the costs being low for locals, but it helps keep plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in my diet. Shopping in the local wet market made me become aware of the economy and resources around me.
I’ve been told that there is a Kunming market that sells Gan Ba Jun or Dried Beef Mushrooms that have already been cleaned and sell for a very healthy sum. One day when I am really in ‘desperate need’ of the scrumptious taste, I’ll figure out where to go to get them, but buying that without being cleaned is not is the cards. I had bought one and half pounds of them for a party a while back and it took three of us 5 hours to clean them. So that’s not the kind of fun activity for me!
As promised, my recipe for Gan Ba Jun Wild Mushrooms:
Gan Ba Jun Mushrooms, Yunnan Style
½ cup oil (for some good reason, the Chinese insist on using a lot of oil for cooking wild mushrooms – I have yet to learn why)
8-10 long green chillies, sliced
1 pound gan ba jun wild mushroom pieces
½ teaspoon salt
Heat the wok, add the oil and heat the oil. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the chillies.
Add the mushrooms and cook over a medium to medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes, or until well cooked. Add the salt.
Dish up on a serving platter and eat with rice.
Local wet markets all across China have many similar things in common – they contain the basic things:
– local fresh vegetables and mushrooms
– fresh herbs including fresh chillies of all kinds
– local fresh fruit
– local loose, dried cooking supplies – beans, rice, flour, spices
– nuts and dried fruit
– local fresh noodles – rice, wheat, bean (picture below shows the bags of rice in the foreground and the freshly made rice noodles hanging vertically to dry in the background)
– fresh meat, poultry, and fish (sometimes refrigerated or frozen, most often neither)
– local fresh tofu – all varieties
– local varieties of pickled vegetables and sauces
– local dried, steamed, cooked, smoked meats
– fresh and potted flowers and plants
– tea of all kinds, including tea-making utensils and supplies
I like visiting local wet markets in a variety of areas of the city to see the differences in the produce on offer. A downtown market in the heart of the city had just those little differences to make it fun to be there.
Managing to get a great find, I stopped to watch a shop keeper serving some customers to see what they were buying. It was pork tenderloin, cooked and smoked. She gave me a little taste and I bought a piece at the far right in the picture.
She gave me a little bag of very spicy Sichuan pepper/salt but the meat was spicy enough for me already. I had that for lunch with some leftover Yang Zhou Fried Rice and slices of fresh cucumber.
Yum, I say!
Almost ready to leave, there they were – Yunnan Wild Mushrooms – calling me. I stopped to discuss the names and made myself the ‘foreign expert’ in wild mushrooms, which I am not. What made me the expert in her mind was that she had the few varieties that I remembered the Chinese names for and I didn’t hesitate to speak to her in Chinese.
Here is a seller who has wild mushroom varieties, most of which I don’t know their names or how to cook them so I don’t get sick. I buy the ones near the blue and white scale at the top left corner. I know those; they are porcini or Niu Gan Jun mushrooms and I’m going to have them for my dinner tonight.
Another seller and I have a long conversation. She tells me the name of the green ones and to be honest, I can’t remember it. But that green hue makes me nervous so I skip buying them. I don’t know exactly how to cook them properly.
This seller also has the Gan Ba Jun or Dried Beef Mushrooms and I know them well. I bought them several weeks ago at the Wild Mushroom City, YiMen. It’s interesting to see how they grow around/inside a bed of pine needles and that’s what makes them so hard to clean. They grow with the needles embedded inside the mushroom meat and you have to have the patience of a saint to clean the pine needles out of the mushrooms. Those are the ones that took three of us 5 hours to clean one an a half pounds…no thanks! They were delicious but nope, not for me.
When I cooked them for the party with a huge amount of green chillies, I can honestly say they were delicious but I can’t go through the cleaning process.
Recipe to follow another day, I promise.
Wild Mushrooms in Yi Men City, Yunnan Province
One of the most unusual mushrooms we saw, bamboo or veiled lady mushrooms – a solid white stem with a lacy cap. My friend took this picture since his camera didn’t show the red shadow of the red awning in front of the restaurant where we ate lunch and he put the Chinese name and the name in pinyin for me so that I could do the research to name it in English.
China is famous for it’s wild mushrooms, and most varieties come from the neighbouring forested areas where I live. The trip spent with friends to ‘Wild Mushroom City’, Yi Men, a 2 hours drive from Kunming was so fascinating. May to August is the Mushroom Season in Yunnan Province, when all kinds of wild edible mushrooms come into the market. About a month ago, I got some very different kinds from my local market that with the help of my Chinese friend, I safely cooked at home. Locals in the forested areas of the province are the mushrooms pickers. They go out in the early morning after a rain, which seems to be everyday in this, the rainy season and gather fresh mushrooms to sell at their local markets and to mushroom re-sellers who ship the harvest all over the world. Not only are wild mushrooms revered and sought after among the people of China, but this trend continues all over the world, as the demand for the lovely and delicious morsels of natural beauty ever increases.
There are over 880 kinds of edible mushrooms in Yunnan, accounting for about 40% of the production all over world. More than 90% of mushrooms in Yunnan are edible, with natural production of about 500,000 tons. Yunnan is one of the most abundant regions in the world for wild mushrooms in China and around the world. Wild mushroom contains various vitamins and other trace elements, which make them such a healthy food and some mushrooms can help fight against cancer and other diseases.
We ate mushrooms for lunch and I saw ‘out of this world-looking’ mushrooms, the likes of which I’ve never seen before. On the display table at the front of the restaurant were 22 different varieties. We ate lunch with about 9 kinds in the hot pot mushroom/pork/goose soup broth.
The white mushrooms floating on the top of the soup are slices of cactus mushrooms.
Afterwards we went to the mushroom market and I got two kinds to take home. The market at Yi Men was a hive of activity, all the sellers lined up along the pathways under cover with umbrellas to keep themselves and their mushrooms from baking in the hot sun. Several sellers had living beehives with bee larvae still alive for purchase. We took a brief look around and checked out the prices and condition of the mushrooms and I left Qu Ping to buy the ones I wanted, without me around. She says that the locals even knew that she was from out of town so it was difficult to drive a hard bargain. But in the end she got me me the two varieties that I wanted – Porcini or Niu Gan Jun and Gan Ba Jun or Dried Beef Mushrooms. I liked these because we ate them stir fried for lunch so I knew what they tasted like and the main word to describe them is ‘de-licious’!
The market was hot and crowded and we went left there to go a park where we sat by a cool stream in an open-air pagoda and chatted while the kids played at the water’s edge throwing stones in.
On the way home we stopped along the road to buy some veggies and fruit from the farmers selling freshly picked produce at unbelievably low prices. Richard chose a lot of vegetables and fruit and gave half to me to take back Kunming – sweet apples, edamame beans still on their stalks, cranberry beans with a white and pink pod and while and pink beans like a lima bean inside, eggplant and fresh green onions.
We came home and had dinner in a nice restaurant. I am getting ideas for the Yunnan cookbook and recipes I will put together as time goes on in my stay in Yunnan.
OMG, I spent all afternoon yesterday with one of my friend, Qu Ping, teaching me how and cleaning the 1 kilo, 2 pounds of black mushrooms that are only found in Yunnan Province. Wow was that complicated. The mushrooms called Gan Ba Jun mushrooms grow under pine trees in the thick forest and they are not a solid mass of mushroom flesh. They grow with many sections like flower petals all intertwined and while growing pick up pine needles and forest soil in between their ‘leaves’ and this stuff gets imbedded in them. It’s not a whole chuck of mushroom that you get like we are used to, but tiny pieces that you must pick out the pine needles and soil from. Amazing. They were simply delicious and this morning I woke up to the aroma of a pine forest in my apartment. Because they’re so fragile, rare and expensive, I had to wash and stir-fry them up in oil and put them in a freezer bag to save in the freezer for the party I’m making this coming Saturday.
You could call this a labour of love. We started preparing the Gan Ba Jun one at 2:30pm and she left with her daughter at 8:30pm less an hour to cook dinner of the other kind of mushrooms that I bought, the Porcinis.
Gan Ba Jun Mushrooms are the rare wild edible fungus that can only be found in Yunnan and grow in the pine tree forests in central and west Yunnan. The mushrooms look ordinary, but they taste very delicious. They can be fried with green peppers or eggs. The price for 1 kilogram of fresh Gan Ba Jun Mushrooms is about 350 yuan or $60 a kilo. It is deeply savory with a pleasantly chewy texture and has a strong earthy and pine aroma and flavor.
The second type of mushroom I brought home is boletus edulis or porcini mushroom, called Niu Gan Jun in Chinese, which is considered one of the safest wild mushrooms to pick for eating, as there are no poisonous species that closely resemble it. This variety is widely known all over the world and prized for its taste and appearance.
The trip was one to remember – beautiful sights in far away places, new ideas, different cultures, lovely friends and delicious new tastes of wild mushrooms.