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Dried wood ear mushrooms (きくらげ) is a type of jelly fungi that have the appearance of black trumpet mushrooms. Native to China, the fungus is also called cloud ear fungus, wood fungus, black mushrooms, and tree ear fungus.
They look thin and frail, curled tightly into itself. Wood ear mushrooms take their name from the fact that they grow on the sides of decaying trees. The broad, flat shape of the mushroom makes the tree look like it has ears.
They are crunchy and gelatinous and have a delicate forest aroma. They are used in many Asian cooking, but most commonly in Chinese cooking. You have probably tasted wood ear mushrooms in the famous Chinese hot and sour soup. They are known for its chewy-crunchy texture, but almost flavorless taste. Often used in soups or in a stir-fry, the mushrooms will take on flavors from other ingredients when cooked and add texture to the dish.
You can find wood ear mushrooms at most of the Asian markets, either in fresh or dried form.
How To Use Dried Wood Ear Mushrooms
To use dried wood ear mushrooms, soak in water for about 15-30 minutes. When reconstituted, they turn into a large wavy black mushroom. Clean them well, and trim off the stems with kitchen scissors. Slice the mushrooms into thin pieces. The soaking liquid does not add any flavor to a finished dish so you can discard the water. Add the rehydrated mushrooms toward the end of your cooking to retain its chewy texture.