An important very flavourful ingredient used in Chinese and Thai cooking. Apparently known to the Thai as "Hed Hom". You can get them dried at an Asian food store. Use a handful in clear soups, or in stir fry dishes. Before use, you should soak them in warm water for 10-20 minutes, and slice.

A mushroom of the Asian variety, used extensively in all Eastern Chinese cooking. They are larger than the Western mushrooms everyone is familiar with. They have a black cap (hence the name), and a white stalk. I advise against eating them raw. Cooked, they have a soft texture, but not flabby, more like chewy. Very tasty.

They are never served alone, but always as an accompaniment to other dishes. Soups are a favorite, especially with abalone and chicken, two of my favorite soups. They also go very well with vegetables, seafoods and tofu. Never serve them dried, always wet them in soup, water or sauce.

A dish I particularly like is the shrimp-tofu served with mushrooms. Slice the tofus into cubes, and cut holes in them. Insert the shrimp into the holes. Prepare the tofu the usual way, toss in some oil, a bit of vegetables and mushrooms, season with Chinese onions. Yummy!

Chinese black mushrooms are much like Japanese shitake mushrooms. I believe that they also grow on rotted tree trunks.

Dried mushrooms are actually much more flavourful than fresh, because the moisture has evaporated, intensifying the flavour. When you reconstitute them, please save the soaking liquer and use it in a broth. Discard (compost or add to a stock) the stems.

When buying Chinese black mushrooms, remember that the finer kind have white splits and cracks. They are rather more expensive but, please, don't be cheap. You are worth taking the time and trouble and expense. After all, what you eat becomes you.

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