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Wild mushroom stew for supper 野生菌炖汤


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Been buying and cooking lots of wild mushrooms this season (summer 雨季)。Have gone a little bit nuts over them, in fact. They are Yunnan’s pride and joy, available for only a small portion of the year. Must be hunted in the mountains and harvested by hand, can’t be planted and grown like ordinary vegetables. 


Not sure if there is sufficient interest here to make it worthwhile to post complete and detailed recipes. Will gladly make them available on request but meantime what I’ll do instead is just give you a quick glimpse into a few ways they can be enjoyed, family style, without any special equipment or sophisticated culinary skills.


A couple weeks ago I bought a batch of 鸡枞菌 jizong jun which only have a scientific name and a nickname in English. (Collybia termitomyces/”termite mushrooms.”) They must grow right above a termite nest in the wild. Can’t be cultivated. Chinese often call them “King of wild mushrooms” 野生菌之王 because of their scarcity, appealing texture and flavor.


Easiest thing to do with wild mushrooms is to make them into a hearty soup or stew 煲汤/炖汤。That’s what I did with these. Made a chicken stew using half a full-flavored free-roaming chicken 土鸡。Didn’t mix the jizong jun 鸡枞菌 with any other mushrooms so as to let their flavor shine. After all they are “the King.” 


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(Please click the photos to enlarge them.)


Frankly, it’s a moderate amount of hassle to clean these, to get them from looking like the first photo above to the second. Requires scraping with a paring knife and scrubbing with a stiff toothbrush, plus judicious soaking, many rinses. Some edible wild mushrooms are known to contain traces of poison and make you sick if eaten raw or under-cooked; these are not among their number; these are completely safe. 


First chop the chicken and cook it in a pressure cooker 电压力锅, adding ginger, garlic and spring onion. When the chicken is barely tender add the mushrooms and finish by simmering with the top of the pot open. Simple and delicious. The mushrooms have a color and texture resembling that of chicken; they have a full-bodied flavor which is faintly nutty. Can serve this as part of a larger meal or with rice on its own. Bowl of soup; cup of rice. 


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Another time I bought a combination of 青头菌 and 鸡油菌。These both are “safe” wild mushrooms (no traces of poison) and they go very well together. In combining mushrooms, one must consider texture as well as flavor: They need to cook at about the same rate. These are both less expensive than 鸡枞菌。


清透菌 qingtou jun (Russula virescens) can be translated as “green head mushrooms” but they aren’t common in the west. This is what 青头菌 look like. They have a slightly chewy texture 口感 and a subtle sweet note in their aftertaste 后感。  


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Combined them with 鸡油菌 jiyou jun (Cantharellus cibarius), called golden chanterelles in the west. They have a faintly fruity aftertaste and are sometimes nicknamed “apricot mushrooms.”


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Made a hearty soup or stew again, this time using small pork ribs. In China, pork ribs 排骨 come in two main kinds, the big hefty ones cut from up near the backbone, and the smaller ones from farther down near the front/ventral side . These smaller, more tender ribs are called 肋排段 and cost a little more.


As before, started the pork ribs in the pressure cooker, adding the wild mushrooms when the ribs were just about done. Spring onions 大葱 on top for garnish and extra flavor. 


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The beauty of these hearty mushroom soups or stews is that after eating them “as is” on day one and two, you can easily transform them into interesting one-dish meals by the addition of compatible vegetables and some pasta 面食。


Once I cooked in some mildly spicy green peppers and served them over curly noodles 火锅面 (a bit like ramen.) Another time I cooked in a green leafy vegetable 苦菜 and some ripe tomatoes 番茄, serving them with fresh rice noodles 米线。I either saute or blanch the vegetables before adding them to the left-over mushroom stew. 


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These wild mushrooms also stir-fry well, and another day I’ll take you there, show you those. That's probably the most common way to find them in restaurants unless one is dining at a specialty establishment featuring wild mushroom hotpot 火锅 (delicious.) 


Links to other recent wild mushroom articles: 


https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58788-kunming-behind-the-scenes-wild-mushroom-wholesale-market-木水花野生菌批发市场 /








Informal Poll:

Just for my own interest, could you let me know if you have ever had a chance to try fresh wild mushrooms? If so, was it in China? How about dried wild mushrooms? Comments? Questions? 


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1 hour ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

I don't think I would take the chance and pick wold mushrooms as i would have no clue what to pick and end up poisining myself !


Oh, I agree completely. I would never pick them in the woods myself either. Best to only buy from a reliable seller. Even then, I tend to stick with the "tamer" and "safer" varieties so as to reduce risk. 

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I have never eaten wild mushrooms, like @DavyJonesLocker I wouldn't trust my skills I would probably end up poisoning myself and anyone else who came to dinner.  I think you are very brave to eat them even picked by experts.


I am afraid I limit my mushroom eating to white button mushrooms seen everywhere here in the UK, I prefer the closed cap ones too, the open cap ones are too gilly for me.

I am the fussiest of eaters so my opinion is very restricted. 


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Thanks for your input, @Shelley and @DavyJonesLocker. I completely understand your caution. 


Some of my local Kunming friends won't eat them either. Mostly younger, more "modern" friends. Their parents rave about them and eat them in a big way during the season. They even deep freeze some (after cooking) to use in the colder months, especially at Spring Festival 春节。


Every year about now, Yunnan TV channels prominently feature news reports of people who have become seriously ill from eating the wrong kind. It's typical for a reporter to interview survivors bedside in the ICU. The news outlets want people to be fully aware that there is risk; want's consumers to proceed with great care and only after thoroughly informing themselves. Making a mistake leads to more than just an "upset tummy." Injuries include liver failure and kidney failure. Every year some people actually die. (These are typically people in the countryside, foraging for themselves.) 


The fact of the matter is that wild mushrooms surely are more attractive to adventurous eaters than to more conservative souls. I've been studying them and learning about them for a decade now, taking only "baby steps" at each stage. "Slow and careful" has been my motto. Have now come to enjoy them a whole lot, but I never treat them casually. I see them as one of the glories of Yunnan, one of those special things that can be found here at their best; made even more attractive by virtue of not being widely available. 

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