A new year means new adventures! As such, I was challenged with creating a recipe featuring an ingredient I have never cooked with before.
I have the great fortune to live a stone’s throw away from The St. Lawrence Market, which National Geographic has named the best food market in the world! It really does seem to have everything! I head off with an open mind telling myself I’ll come home with not only a food I’ve never tried… but one I’d never even heard of. Now that would be a real food adventure!
Two hours later, delighted by discoveries such as canned haggis, I spot a few items I have never before seen or heard about.
The most frightening based on its name alone was black fungus. I resisted the urge to instantly Google it on my phone.
What I discovered when I got home was that my black fungus is also known as Mok Yee, cloud ear, jelly mushroom, wood ear, rat’s ear or ear fungus (if it was labeled as either of the latter two, I don’t think I would have been brave enough to pick it up).
All I could think was, “I am so Anthony Bourdain right now!” Black fungus is enjoyed in recipes from China, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Phillippines and in Hawaii and Europe.
Being the dietitian nutrition nerd that I am, I had to read up on the black fungus research. As with other mushrooms, black fungus is being studied to determine its potential health benefits. A study using rabbits found that compared to aspirin, the rabbits given black fungus had a greater reduction in apolipoprotein B and plaque in the arteries.
In another interesting study, researchers wanted to know the effect of black fungus extract on weight and body fat in mice fed a high fat diet. Body weight and fat mass was lower in the mice fed a high fat diet with the black fungus extract compared to mice fed the high fat diet alone.
More research is needed in people before we know the effects of black fungus on heart health and weight. However, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, black fungus is used for strengthening and “cooling the blood” and improving heart health. These little guys are rich in iron!
The other wonderful thing I learned about black fungus is when you rehydrate it, it grows up to 8x it’s original size!
It reminds me of those awesome Magic Growing Capsules. Remember those? They’re basically animal-shaped sponges that start off looking like tiny capsules. Just add water, wait a few minutes, and… Magic! You have your very own brontosaurus!
Well, trying something new paid off. Don’t let the name get to you… these mushrooms are delicious! I was excited to find out that the texture of black fungus is incredible. It’s slightly crunchy yet soft at the same time. It’s something you truly have to experience!
In the spirit of the new year, I challenge all of you to take a risk in your own kitchens! Let me know how it goes…