Our daughter Stephanie recently spent a couple of weeks in China and was lucky enough to get some cooking lessons from a family friend living there. She made this salad for us when she was here recently, along with a wonderful soba noodle salad; great for dinner or an office lunch (hopefully in a park somewhere, not the office desk) - healthy, light and delicious.
Cloud Ear Noodle Salad
It’s so gratifying to taste a dish and then experiment, ‘listening’ to your sensory memory. The fun, after all, is in the challenge of trying to replicate a taste, in taking that leap of faith that you’ll produce something worthwhile, even if it’s not exactly what you originally had in mind.
The colour and shape of cloud ear mushrooms is quite dramatic; and although they don’t have a distinctive taste of their own, they absorb the flavour of dressings and marinades, and can be used in stir fries, soups and salads. They’re also full of protein, iron and fibre.
It’s perfectly possible to eat more than your share of this salad, especially when it’s made and eaten still warm – delicious!
Serve with steamed or shallow fried Chinese dumplings, steamed buns and steamed or sautéed Asian vegetables such as choy sum or bok choy .
15g dried Cloud Ear mushrooms*
100g cellophane noodles
1 spring onion, sliced thinly on a diagonal
½ cup julienned cucumber or zucchini
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 Tbsp black sesame seeds
Toasted pumpkin seeds **
3 Tbsp black vinegar***
2 tsp liquid honey
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1-2 tsp wasabi
Place the mushrooms in a heat proof bowl and pour boiling water over to cover, remembering they swell to twice their dried size. Soak for 30 minutes, then drain, slice off the ‘stalk’, where the mushroom has been attached to a tree, and slice each into 2-3 pieces. Set aside
Combine the dressing ingredients thoroughly to dissolve the honey and wasabi paste, and pour over the soaked mushrooms while the remaining salad is prepared.
Cut or tear the cellophane noodle bundles into 2-3 shorter lengths if possible, although it is often easier to do this after the noodles are cooked. Drop into boiling water and boil for 2-3 minutes, until translucent and tender. Drain immediately and refresh under blood temperature water. Drain well.
Place the cooked noodles in a serving dish and top with the prepared spring onion, cucumber or zucchini, toasted sesame seeds and black sesame seeds.
Pour over the dressing and mushrooms and toss to combine. Garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds with soy sauce if wished.
*Cloud Ear mushrooms, sometimes known as Wood mushrooms or Black Fungus, are prized for a light crunchy texture and nutritional properties. Readily available in any Asian food outlet in dried form, and when hydrated swells to twice its size, so a little goes a long way.
** Toast 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds in a dry frypan over a medium heat until most have “popped”, tossing or stirring continuously. Remove from the heat immediately and toss in 1 Tbsp soy sauce. Transfer the cooked pepitas to a bowl to cool, defending them from all would-be ‘grazers’ who swing past the kitchen. Store in an airtight jar.
*** An aged rice vinegar; rich, malty, smoky and mellow. Available at any Asian food outlet.