Already lush-tasting Chinese black mushrooms become almost decadently so when steeped in rich master sauce. You should serve them as you would fresh truffles—whole, if you wish to be lavish, or cut into thin strips if you wish to be lavishly discreet.
For best flavor, soak the mushrooms for several hours in cold water, overnight if you wish. If you are pressed for time, cover the mushrooms with hot water, cover the bowl, then soak about 20 minutes, until soft and spongy. Snip off the stems with scissors, then rinse the caps under running water to dislodge any sand trapped in the gills.
Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer in a small heavy pot that will hold the mushrooms snugly. (I use a small Chinese sand pot, illustrated, though any small, heavy pot will do.) Taste and adjust the sauce if required, adding a bit more water, soy, wine, or crushed golden rock sugar to achieve a rich and balanced blend. Add the mushroom caps, stir, then adjust the heat to maintain a weak simmer. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, then let the caps steep in the covered pot for about 1 hour, longer if upon tasting them you find you want a richer taste. The steeping time will vary, depending upon the intensity of the sauce and the thickness of the caps.
Remove the mushrooms to a small bowl. Strain, bottle, and refrigerate or freeze the sauce for future use.
For best flavor and a wonderfully smooth texture, chill the mushrooms before serving, overnight if you wish. You may also eat them hot directly out of the pot, or tepid. To serve, cut them into strips, halves, or serve whole.
The mushrooms will keep 2–3 days, sealed airtight and refrigerated.
© 1982 Barbara Tropp estate. All rights reserved.