Dried Chinese floral mushrooms
Recently I cooked a stuffed mushroom recipe (from Yan-Kit So's Classic Chinese Cookbook, page 154) that called for dried Chinese mushrooms, reconstituted. I purchased some dried Chinese thick floral mushrooms and soaked them in hot water for 20 minutes, then proceeded with the recipe.
The mushrooms had good flavor, but were so chewy that the resulting dish was quite a disappointment.
I understand that for some cultures and in some uses, even when the fresh ingredient is available, sometimes the dried/preserved/canned ingredient is preferred because it has its own unique flavor.
- I am wondering if any of you ever use dried Chinese mushrooms with good results, and if so, what you used them for.
- For those of you of Chinese descent, I am wondering if you would ever purchase dried mushrooms if fresh are available. Meaning, when you purchase dried mushrooms, is that because they're more authentic and have the right flavor for the dish, or just because you can't find the fresh equivalent?
Thanks in advance!
I'm guessing you were not using mushrooms, but rather dried ear fungus.
Did they look like anything in the pics below?
It sounds like KK is right about "floral mushrooms" referring to huagu; these are commonly available in Chinese markets and herb stores, but may be more difficult to find than the more commonly available types of shiitake.
I would try soaking them all day or overnight in cool water instead of hot water for a shorter time. Even if you use hot water, you should soak for an hour or more. The quality and size of dried Chinese mushrooms can vary greatly too. They keep for a while, so if you have good ones available near you, invest in some good quality ones. Working with these does take some practice if you want to eat them whole (using them in fillings or stir-fries where they're diced or sliced is usually a little more forgiving). Slicing or pulling off the stems (I'm assuming you're already doing this if you're stuffing them) may also help if you're finding them a bit too chewy.
Most of the time, the shiitakes available here are of a different variety. But to answer your question, yes, Chinese people I know (and restaurants) often use dried mushrooms and fungus even when fresh ones of the same type are available at the market. The flavor is more concentrated with the dried ones, and the texture can be different, plus, the mushrooms usually come in packages of a fixed size, and for a stuffing or filling, you might only need 3 or 4. For certain applications, someone might be more likely to use one more often than the other.
This applies a bit more to wood ear fungus than to the kind we're talking about here, but just keep in mind, too, that Chinese people tend to like chewy textures. It should have a chewy texture, but not so chewy that it's impossible to eat.
Dried and fresh mushrooms generally have totally different flavours. I definitely buy different ones depending on the recipe, even though fresh are available, and that's standard here (Taiwan).
Personally, I prefer the smaller shitakes for reconstituting (2-4 centimetres in diametre), rather than the really big ones, for texture reasons. Plus, they're way cheaper than the really big ones, even if they aren't as pretty.
One fantastic but simple dish is to take the smaller dried shitakes, soak them, squeeze them out, and then saute them in butter until they start to brown. I also use them a lot in rice dishes, and fillings for things like dumplings or zhongzi.
For the wood's ear fungus, as shown in the picture above, the fresh ones looks so different that I didn't realize that they were the same food at first.
To answer your question
Yes, I have used mushrooms with good results. I have used them for various thing from making soup, to stir fry, to making dim sum.
I like fresh mushrooms as well. I think the dried mushroom offers a different favor than the fresh mushrooms, but not so different that I cannot substitute one for another. In other words, I am not going to stop making what I want to make just because I cannot find the fresh ones or the dried ones.