Popular Post abcdefg Posted August 16, 2016 at 01:55 AM Popular Post Report Share Posted August 16, 2016 at 01:55 AM Can’t wait to tell you about this fine meal which happened partly by fortunate accident and partly by design. China living just doesn’t get much better than this, at least if you enjoy exploring local cuisine. We’ve had lots of rain this season in Kunming; started earlier than usual and has continued, with a sprinkle or a brief downpour several times a week. Not only has it made for a bumper mushroom crop, but it has kept the temperature cool and pleasant while my family and friends back home in Texas are sweating it out with 103 and 104 degrees of unrelenting late-summer, sticky-awful heat. Here I usually need to put on a thin over-shirt or even a light sweater after the sun goes down, and the gentle breeze rustles the curtains of my bedroom at night. That light-weight down comforter feels just right. You already know from previous posts that I’m crazy in love with the wet market a few blocks from my Kunming home; it’s a cornucopia of treasures. Never ceases to amaze me with the huge variety of things that are available very fresh for only a very short time. It yields so many small-scale discoveries that in an hour I feel like Marco Polo. This morning I went there mushroom-shopping. Late August is the peak of the season here and I know they will start thinning out as September rolls around. Need to seize the moment and make some for supper while I can. Most of the vendors have their mushrooms spread out on the ground in an array of baskets separated into varieties that are mostly kitchen-safe and those that have some poison 有毒。Often the same basic kind of mushrooms comes in both sub-types; but you don’t have to be a mycologist to figure it out. The seller tells you which are which and you adapt cooking methods accordingly. The ones I bought today are not associated with any substantial risk. I bought 100 grams of 青头菌 for 18 Yuan and 100 grams of 鸡油菌 for 13 Yuan. 鸡油菌 are chanterelles, popular in Europe and America, as well as Asia. They have a golden color and are shaped like a trumpet. But 青头菌, literally "green head mushroom" are pretty much a Yunnan specialty, without any widely-agreed English name. Their scientific name is Russula virecens, and they have a mild, nutty flavor. Sometimes they are labeled green quilted brittle-gills. Mushrooms which are large and perfect cost more. I usually buy a middle grade because they taste just as good despite some broken parts and blemishes. Very small ones require a bit more cleaning effort and I avoid those except when making soup. When selecting fresh wild mushrooms in the market, take your time but be sure to handle them by the stems or the vendors will yell at you. Look at the underside, the gills, and be sure they are well defined and not mushy, dark or damaged. The stem should be firm when you squeeze it gently near the top. The surface of the caps should be clean and dry, not slick or slimy. Try to squat for a while beside an elderly local who has been shopping mushrooms for the past fifty years and imitate his actions while asking judicious questions. The education you receive from this kind of enhanced monkey-see-monkey-do methodology is better than a master’s degree from Tsinghua or Fudan. Some vendors are more forthcoming than others. Mr. Zhang will tell me, “These are yesterday’s, OK for soup,” while Ms. Chen next door tries to pass them off as fresh. If I bought mushrooms more frequently, I would merit a higher degree of vendor loyalty. But as it is, I must kind of take my chances. I try to buy them the same day I plan to use them. If I must keep a few overnight, I take them out of the plastic bag and put them in an open bowl, loosely wrapped in paper towels. Refrigerate like that, not sealed up. Use a mushroom brush or a soft toothbrush to wipe away the loose bits of forest earth and leaves. Don’t soak them in a basin of water because that makes them more difficult to sauté. Some I wipe with a moist paper towel. I cut off the last little bit at the root end as well as any bad spots. Let me show you what I mean. Sharpen your knife before cutting mushrooms so that you don't tear and bruise them. Cut the mushroom in half and then slice each half again once or twice. If some earth is embedded in the flesh and won't wipe off, just cut it away. As you slice the mushrooms, check for bad ones. Despite my best efforts, I wound up purchasing a couple that were duds. Throw them away. Here's what I wound up with. Note that it's not a tiny dice; you want substantial pieces so they don't just turn to mush. Cut up some slightly-spicy green Yunnan peppers, 4 if they are large and 5 if they are small. These peppers are just called 青椒 here in everyday parlance, but more precisely are named 皱皮教，which means "wrinkled skin peppers." Remove the core and most of the seeds to make them less hot. I try to wind up with about half as much peppers as mushrooms by volume. Thinly slice some garlic. It's less trouble to use the "single-bulb" kind, called 独蒜。Not only is it easier to work, it has a slightly milder flavor, less tendency to bite. Yunnan style wild mushroom recipes always use lots of garlic. It's not entirely for flavor, but also as a TCM antidote to any stray toxins. Supposed to have a protective benefit. Time to fire up the wok. Being experienced old China kitchen dogs, I'm sure you remembered to start the rice several minutes back. These ingredients require longer cooking over lower heat than most stir-fried dishes. So I use olive oil for starters and unsalted butter as a finish. Fresh wild mushrooms require plenty of lube, don't be stingy with it. Sweat the mushroom alone in the wok. This takes two or three minutes. Stir them very frequently; don't even think about leaving the kitchen. When their liquid comes out, add the garlic and the green peppers. Stir fry another five or six minutes until the garlic begins to brown and the peppers begin to soften. Finish the dish by adding some absolutely sinful butter. And now is also the time to salt it. Use a light hand; it doesn't need much. If you salt the dish too early in the cooking process, the mushrooms dry out and become a little tough. Cook another minute or so until the butter bubbles. You want the mushrooms to still have some individual substance; don't let them completely cook down and lose their structure. It's done; serve it up! This has gotten long, so I'll stop here and the goose part of the meal will follow in a little while. 6 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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