HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >

Discussion

Chinese Black Mushroom

It used to be every corner Chinese takeout joint had these on the menu, often in a dish with bamboo shoots and water chestnuts. Loved it. But I can't find the delicious black shrooms anywhere now...any thoughts? If I wanted to get some for home cooking, what would I ask for? I tried dried shiitake once, which I guess these are, and they just weren't remotely the same. Ideas, please?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. They are shitakes but not the kind one usually finds--instead, look for billowy marshmallow tops for fresh; for dried, the caps will also be thick and often marked by lines. You can find the fresh usually at Sunrise Market and the dried in Chinatown (they will be the more expensive ones.) I know Charlie Mom's in the Village is awful but they do have Black Mushrooms with Snow Peas--and it's pretty good.

    1. Any oriental supermarket in Chinatown carries a variety of dried and fresh mushrooms, competitively priced

      10 Replies
      1. re: diprey11

        What are they called, so I know what to ask for? I've been mistaken with black shrooms before...

        1. re: HippieChick

          They might be labeled as "dong gu," "dongu" (long "O" sound), "winter mushrooms" or just as "dried shiitake mushrooms." You can, in addition to many other markets, find them at Hong Kong Supermarket. The prices are fair -- not the least expensive or the most expensive, but it's a large supermarket with decent turnover, so you probably won't be getting really, really old mushrooms. The quality does deteriorate over time. Really old or poorly stored mushrooms sometime have moths.

          1. re: michelleats

            @HippieChick: show them a picture

            What michelleats just described:is written as
            冬菇

            and it literally means, winter mushroom. This is a premium variety, similar to shiitake (doubt that your corner takeout joint uses them)

          2. re: HippieChick

            Not sure how to answer your question. Although goods are often labeled in English at a Chinese supermarket (and Sunrise is actually Japanese), staff on the floor might not speak a single word of English; consider asking customers.

            For shiitake (black mushrooms), you can show them a picture of these two characters:
            香菇

            If you are buying dried mushrooms for the first time, it may be worth to pay a little extra at a store with a good customer service. I'd recommend Chung Chou City @ 39 Mott St, they should be able to assist you.

            1. re: HippieChick

              Shitakes have become so popular & easily available, that unfortunately they're also called "Chinese Black Mushrooms", but the fresh & dried shitakes you find everywhere these days are NOT the "Chinese Black Mushrooms" you remember from your past. Back in the 1970's, a tiny little local Asian grocery used to sell a plethora of dried mushrooms, including both "Shitake" & "Chinese Black", which were sold side by side. TOTALLY different in appearance. Dried Shitakes have a pale to medium brown relatively flat, thin cap; dried authentic Chinese Black mushrooms are a light brown to dark almost-black color, & the caps are thick & rounded, with the edges curled under. When rehydrated, the Shitakes will be softer, but not all that larger than fresh; Chinese Blacks rehydrate into somewhat larger, thicker, rounder "pillows" - very meaty & juicy. Closely related - yes; the same - no.

              Unfortunately, I can't give you a source - I've been looking myself, & it's only once in a blue moon that a local Asian supermarket will bring in a dried brand that resembles the Chinese Black I remember. I've never ever seen them fresh. Apparently there are several reasons - Shitakes - fresh & dried - have become not only extremely popular, but also extremely cheap & easy to cultivate locally, so why should mushroom purveyors & restaurants bother to import real Chinese Blacks. Especially when very few people can tell the difference anyway. Since both mushroom types share the same name these days, the only real way you can get what you want is by appearance. Look for thick caps with thick edges that curl under. Soak them well in very hot tap water for a solid 30 minutes bare minimum, & if the caps are particularly thick, replace the water every 10 minutes with fresh hot water. Remove & discard the stems (some people save them for vegetable stock) & then proceed with your favorite Chinese braised mushroom recipe.

              1. re: Bacardi1

                Thank you for the very clear explanation! I wish for both our sakes we could find the real thing again...

                1. re: HippieChick

                  You're in Manhattan, I think, from your posting history? I can't imagine that you can't find the type you are after from some place in Chinatown (Canal St area) or Flushing?

                  Besides the terms "Tung Koo" (冬菇) and "Heong Koo" (香菇) written about upthread, there is also the term "Far Koo" (花茹) which refers to a paler colored mushroom (not "black" black) but a very thick-cap variety with a cracked pattern on the surface of the cap. They are considered a high-grade variety - but also come in different grades themselves and the best ones can be *very* pricy. Depending on the variety and what is done with them they may look slightly different, and may also come out "black-looking" in the final dish.
                  Some links:
                  http://www.agrisino.com/space/?%BA%A3...
                  http://mutsumi4u.synapse-blog.jp/iked...
                  http://www.zishendo.com/article/20101...
                  http://www.hudong.com/wiki/%E8%8A%B1%...

                  I suspect your "black mushrooms" from your takeout joint would be of the cheaper (generic) "Tung Koo"; or (maybe) a lower-grade "Heong Koo". Perhaps they may also use canned "Tung Koo", easily found in Chinese groceries, which in fact would have this slightly different taste due to the processing *and* be very "tender" in texture - perhaps something you are also after?

                  At the local Chinese grocery I usually shop at here in Indy I can usually find fresh "common" "Tung Koo" (cheap) which would have a more pronounced ("coarse", even, to my taste) and stronger taste and will be somewhat thick and definitely black in cap color.

                  BTW, when soaking dried (Chinese) mushrooms it is better to remove the stems first before putting them in water. Grasp the cap, upsidedown, in one palm and then push on the stem with the thumb of the other hand (or grasp it with whatever combination of digits you prefer and twist/push). Or use pliers. :-) [I often do!] The idea is to break off the stem right at the cap so that a slight "cavity" is created where the inner meat of the cap is exposed. Dump the caps in water, swish around, then immerse the caps below the water surface and turn them over underwater so that air is not trapped on the underside (gills surface) and so that the cap surface is on top and then let them float.

                  1. re: huiray

                    Again, thank you so much for the detailed help!

                    1. re: huiray

                      "BTW, when soaking dried (Chinese) mushrooms it is better to remove the stems first before putting them in water. Grasp the cap, upsidedown, in one palm and then push on the stem with the thumb of the other hand (or grasp it with whatever combination of digits you prefer and twist/push). Or use pliers. :-) [I often do!] The idea is to break off the stem right at the cap so that a slight "cavity" is created where the inner meat of the cap is exposed. Dump the caps in water, swish around, then immerse the caps below the water surface and turn them over underwater so that air is not trapped on the underside (gills surface) and so that the cap surface is on top and then let them float."

                      Yes, thanks, huiray. I learned something, too. What do you do with your stems, by the way?

            2. These come in a number of grades and vary from a few bucks a pound to $30-$40/lb.. Go to Kam Man on Canal and you can look at the bins and buy what ever strikes your fancy.

              1. Oh, thanks, everybody! Diprey11, thanks for the characters...will try them out in Chinatown.