Students of Chinese cuisine know, and countless of its recipes illustrate, that China could be called the land of mushrooms. The commercial cultivation of mushrooms began in China around the mid-seventh century, about one thousand years before European cultivation began in France. There are about three hundred kinds of mushrooms to be found in China; eighty-three of these varieties are known to be poisonous. Since it is impossible to identify with certainty some of the poisonous mushrooms except by their effects, one hesitates to speculate on how the Chinese managed over the centuries to differentiate them so successfully. In any event, mushrooms are among the most popular foods in China with enough production to export more mushrooms than any other country.
In this recipe, which I learned from the proprietor of a small restaurant in Kunming, Yunnan, “cloud ears”, a smaller version of the popular wood ear fungus, lend their subtle earthy flavour and distinctive texture to the dish.
The crunchy cucumbers add another texture and complement the delicately flavoured fillets. In China, I enjoyed this dish made with fresh carp fillets but any firm, white-fleshed fish will work as well.
Cut the fillets into
Soak the cloud ear fungus in warm water for at least 15 minutes. Rinse them several times in cold running water to remove any sand. Drain thoroughly and set aside.
Peel the cucumber, slice it in half lengthways, and remove any seeds. Cut the halves into
Reheat the wok or pan and add the remaining oil. When the oil is hot, add the cloud ear fungus, cucumber, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the rice wine or sherry, soy sauces, and chicken stock and cook for 3 minutes. Add the cornflour mixture and stir. Return the fish pieces to the wok and cook gently until the fish is heated through. Ladle onto a platter and serve with rice.
© 1990 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.