I’m not gonna lie. I’m on a clean-eating, gym-challenge this year which I’m super excited about, but this cooler weather has got me craving carb-laden comfort food. And what gets more comforting than a hearty bowl of creamy, cheesy pasta? #cheatdayhero
WATER CHESTNUTS – MA TAI
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.
SWEET CORN – SOOK MAI
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.
SNOW FUNGUS – SUET YI
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.
SNAKE BEANS – CHENG DAU
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
MUSHROOMS – DUNG GU
DRIED MUSHROOMS – SEEN GU
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.