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Feb 19, 2011 10:57 PM

Fresh Wood Ear Fungi for Jai

Today was the last day of the Lunar New Year celebrations. For lunch I polished off the last bit of “jai” (vegetarian Buddhist monks stew) of the 10 quarts that I made nearly three weeks ago. After not making jai for more than a decade, I was inspired this go-round by watching Auntie Ruby demo in her kitchen for the Chow team. Here’s the behind the scenes action (click on slideshow, then show info):

One of the products she introduced that I’d not seen before was a package of fresh wood ears imported from China. She bought hers at New May Wah and I’ve also found them in the produce section at 99 Ranch in Mountain View and Marina Food in Cupertino. Unlike the brittle and almost crisp-textured rehydrated dried product, fresh wood ears are soft, supple, and verging on jelly-like in texture. They were also larger and thicker, and I used scissors to cut them into quarters. I don’t know if they are available year-round or only now for Chinese New Year cooking. In any case, I’ll be using them again when I spot them.

Auntie Ruby’s abridged recipe is a starting point for me. I add more ingredients, all vegetarian.

Grandma Ruby makes “jai” for Chinese New Year!/show/all...

Marina Food
10122 Bandley Dr, Cupertino, CA

New May Wah
719 Clement St, San Francisco, CA

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  1. My word. I didn't realize there was such a thing.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chandavkl

      Glad I mentioned it then, I'm not the only one!

      This year I used locavore lily buds grown in Occidental too.

    2. The fresh ones at Marina (San Mateo), packaged in celophane wrap and styrofoam, have a funky smell to them. I have no idea where the good restaurants get them from. For what it is worth, Taste Good Peking (Milpitas) has a very nice stir fried woodear with mountain yam and carrot dish, where the woodear has no strange taste, a very nice gummy like texture and thick.

      Yogi House in Cupertino, very near Marukai, is an organic health foods store with a lot of Taiwanese imports. The woodear they have if I remember correctly, is dried, but is supposedly "organic", whatever that means.

      2 Replies
      1. re: K K

        Hmm, no problem with the cello wrapped ones from Marina in Cupertino or New May Wah. I think the packer is California Mushrooms or something like that. Wonder if yours were too old and starting to decay.

        I found dofu pok (fried tofu blocks) made with non-GMO soy beans at Marina Foods. I've been finding higher quality at Marina these days vs. Ranch 99.

        New May Wah
        719 Clement St, San Francisco, CA

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Marina Cupertino stocks better quality (and more varieties of) produce, meats, fish, and other groceries than the San Mateo location, it is also bigger.

      2. I've seen them at the Richmond Ranch 99 as well. And Berk Bowl has them, which I prefer, they're loose so I can pick thru them. The Ranch 99 ones, looks a little old sometimes. I think they're a fall/winter item, but am not 100% sure.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Dawgmommy

          That's good to know, I'd like to buy them loose at Berkeley Bowl.

          In the pre-new year's period, they were not available at the Fremont nor Daly City 99 Ranch. I also saw them at Lion in Newark. Marina Food in Cupertino had bulk packages of the various items used for jai, e.g., fresh tofu skins, dofu pok.

          Berkeley Bowl
          2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

          99 Ranch Market
          250 Skyline Plz, Daly City, CA

          99 Ranch Market
          34444 Fremont Blvd, Fremont, CA

          Newark, Newark, CA

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            I got some Black Cloud fungus last week at the Maxim Market in Cupertino (DeAnza). I believe it is the same thing. Cartilage like texture. Not a very distinct taste-- more a texture to add.

            Maxim Market
            1179 S De Anza Blvd, San Jose, CA

            1. re: Tumkers

              Yes, the same thing. Are they packaged or loose at Maxim Market?

              Maxim Market
              1179 S De Anza Blvd, San Jose, CA

            2. re: Melanie Wong

              Also loose at Monterey Market yesterday.