Wood Ear Mushroom Salad

Crunchy wood ear mushrooms amid a sea of vinegary sweetness combine in this unique salad.

Not all salads are made up of leafy greens and other raw veggies. This unique salad is healthy, delicious and entirely unlike anything you’ve had before. Wood Ear mushrooms provide this salad a delicate flavor and surprising crunch. Simple to make, it will quickly become a family favorite.

What Are Wood Ear Mushrooms

Wood ear mushrooms grow out of trees and resemble ears, giving them their common name. Other names include the scientific Auricularia Polytricha as well as other common nomenclatures such as the Tree Ear, Cloud Ear, Jelly Ear and black fungus.

These unique mushrooms have a firm, slightly crunchy skin and an earthy flavor. They average three to eight centimeters in diameter and are light brown to dark brown with a slippery texture. When they are cooked, wood ear mushrooms are firm and crunchy with a mild musty flavor.

Wood Ears grow in temperate forests on living and dead trees. They are also cultivated in bags of sawdust. They are rich in fiber, protein and iron as well as vitamins B1 and B2.

The wood ear mushroom has been used in Chinese culture since the Tang dynasty, from 618 to 907 BC, and is considered both edible and medicinal. In China, it was used to treat colds, fevers, and sore throats as well as for improving circulation and breathing.

Recipe & Preparation

This basic recipe for Wood Ear Mushroom Salad comes from Eating Well and makes six half-cup servings. It’s low in carbs, fat and calories as well as being free of dairy, eggs and nuts. It uses dried mushrooms that should be soaked overnight to rehydrate before use.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of dried wood ear mushrooms (roughly 2 ½ ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon of chili oil
  • 2 teaspoons of minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoon of thick or dark soy sauce
  • 1 ½ tablespoon of reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of black vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon of sugar
  • ½ cup of coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of chili-bean sauce or sambal oelek

Prep Instructions

This dish can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to two days or it can be served at once after preparing. The first step in any recipe is to collect and prepare the ingredients. For this recipe, this primarily entails rehydrating the mushrooms by soaking them in eight cups of water overnight. Once this is done, you’ll need a large pot of boiling water and a large bowl of ice water next to that.

  1. Drain and cut the mushrooms into three-inch pieces.
  2. Add the mushrooms to the boiling water and cook for five minutes.
  3. Transfer the mushrooms to the ice water using a slotted spoon.
  4. Drain the mushrooms and pat them dry.

In a small skillet over medium heat, combine the sesame oil, chili oil, ginger and garlic and heat for roughly 30 seconds or until it begins to sizzle. Add the chili-bean sauce/sambal oelek and heat while stirring for another 15 to 20 seconds or until fragrant. Remove this mixture from the heat and whisk in the sugar, black vinegar, thick/dark soy sauce and reduced-sodium soy sauce.

Transfer this concoction into a large bowl and add the mushrooms and cilantro. Stir well to evenly coat the mushrooms with the sauce and serve.

Variations

The most common variation on this recipe adds cucumber to offset the spicy sweetness of the mushrooms. All Recipes offers a basic recipe for Chilled Cucumber & Wood Ear Mushroom Salad that’s similar to others.

Wood Ear Mushroom Salad is itself a variation on the standard salad. While little known in Western culture, it has been popular for generations in its native Asiatic countries. It offers a unique and tasty alternative to that basic boring salad everyone makes and is sure to wow dinner guests.

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