Water Chestnuts



Adds great crunch to a stir-fry. Cannot be eaten raw, but blanching will be enough if you want to retain crunch. Raw water chestnuts come with a brown, tough, outer covering, and are often covered in mud so need to be rinsed very carefully, before being peeled.

Water chestnuts can be bought ready peeled. Also used in salads, soups and stews.  Available year-round. 

Water Chestnuts 1
Water Chestnuts 1



Used widely for flavouring soups.  Often the husks are taken off but the silk will be kept on for added flavoring to boiling water (without extra ingredients), the silk is then removed from the water which in turn is topped up with the other ingredients.

Look for firm plump kernels. De-husk and de-silk, break in half and add to long boiling soups (2-3 hours cooking time).  Famous dishes include Crab and Sweetcorn Soup.
Sweet Corn

Snow Fungus / Silver Ear



Snow Fungus or white fungus is also known as white or silver wood ear. It grows in the mountainous areas of China, in Sichuan and Fujian. It is a very pretty-looking fungus. Buy it dried, in packets or boxes but avoid the ones that are overly white, they have usually been bleached. Look for ones which are yellow.

It lasts years if stored carefully. Usually there are a bundle of yellowing, flower-like fungi heads (the size of a chrysanthemum flower) together. One ‘head’ is enough for a pot. They need to be soaked in water, and rinsed 4-5 times to remove the grit.  Soaking is fast, in a matter of minutes the fungus will swell up like a beautiful white chrysanthemum flower. Cut away any very brown, dried parts underneath. The whole thing can be put in the pot or broken up. The texture is a little chewy and crunchy.  It is very nutritious and good for insomnia, coughs and chronic constipation.

Recipes : Apple and Snow Fungus Soup
Snow Fungus

Snake Beans



They are also a good source of protein, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, and potassium, and a very good source for vitamin C, folate, magnesium, and manganese.   In the market they are bought in bundles, similar to handfuls of dried spaghetti – one big handful (round the girth of the bundle) is plenty enough for 2 dishes.  Wash them well, then top and tail, then break the beans into 2-3 inch lengths, snapping them down. 

Recipes : Snake Beans and Beef Stir Fry

Snake BeansSnakes Beans (just above the Napa Cabbage at the bottom) 






Recipes : Snake Beans and Beef Stir Fry





Chinese mushrooms, also known as Shiitake mushrooms, are strong, robust-tasting mushrooms that can be used fresh or dried.  The dried mushrooms are braised slowly, and make a great addition to stews and winter dishes, much in the same way as dried porcini.  To prepare dried mushrooms, soak in lukewarm water for 30mins – 1 hour. A small handful is plenty for a dish as the dried mushrooms impart a very strong flavour. A little goes a long way. The soaking water can be used too, but beware of the grit at the bottom.  The mushrooms can also be chopped fine and used in stuffing for dumplings and meat dishes.


Use straw mushrooms like button or chestnut mushrooms.  A good wiping is enough, then chopped in half.  They are delicious in stir-fries, pastas, fried in butter and put on toast, any old way is good.
Recipes : 3 Cup Mushroom, Braised Chinese Mushrooms, Lettuce Wraps with Iberico Fuet Sausage and Chinese Mushrooms, Roast 5 Spice Duck with Wild Rice Stuffing, My Mother’s Springrolls  

Straw & Chinese Mushrooms

Lotus Root



Used in stews, goes well with belly pork and slow cooked. Also great thinly sliced, as a pickle, with Chinese vinegar.  Can be stir fried and gives added crunch.  Also used in soups. Must be washed and rinsed a few times as very muddy.  Look for roots which are white and firm.  Discard any that are soft and smell funny.  Young, tender ones can be eaten raw in salads while mature and more starchy ones are good in soup.

In season from April – August.  This link tells you all about its medicinal properties, but Mum says they are good for clearing phlegm and constipation.

Recipes : Lotus Root, Carrot and Pear Soup
Lotus Root