White fungus 白木耳

Snow Fungus

Other English names: White Wood Ear 
Chinese names: 雪耳, 銀耳,白木耳 (xuě’ěr), (yín’ěr),(báimù’ěr)

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This is a common dessert in Chinese restaurants. It is easy to make and readily available ingredient.  However I’ve not eaten this in more than 10 years after a Malaysian Chinese colleague asked rhetorically at a lunch why anyone would pay to eat plastic. The imagery was so strong I couldn’t shake it off.

Recently with the price of birds nest sky rocketing and my brother in law telling me about how birds nest is now harvested from urban towns and houses instead of from caves, I  question if I want to pay a lot for something that is done so commercial. Was it placebo effect that cause me to feel the benefits from birds nest?

My mom suggested the poor man’s bird nest – white fungus. Since I was having a dry cough I decided to put this to the test as some blogs claim that snow fungus is good for building up the respiratory system and provides collagen for skin as well as aids in constipation. No blogger had definitively written to confirm  they tried and it worked for them.

Two weeks ago, with a lingering dry cough – no phelgm, I decided to try.

I got a pack of 3 from a TCM shop.
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1. Soak in water till expand twice it’s size about 30 mins.
2. Throw away water. Pour boiling water. Simmer for 10 mins. Throw away water. (My mom says it’s to remove sour taste of white fungus.) Pour fresh water to cover above
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3. Snip the expanded white fungus and throw away the hard bit.

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4. Put in slow cooker for 2hrs till soft. (I leave mine for 4hrs.) After one hour put red dates-hollowed. Seed of the red dates or jujube is sour. I put the wolfberry last when the fungus is done.
5. When it’s done, put in rock sugar to suit your taste. I usually don’t put any sugar. Sometimes I add honey.
6. Eat it warm or when it’s cooled, keep in fridge for next day.
– For cough, add Chinese almonds (南北杏).

Note: As it was a big pot for me, I ate it over 3 days. My dry cough cleared after a week. Is it due to the white fungus or just a coincidence ? My constipation was very good immediately the day after and the next 3 days. My skin felt smoother.

I’m trying it this week again. Afterall it’s effortless once you’ve a slow cooker. For a savory version, add white or black fungus to your chicken soup when you’re stewing it. I cook my white fungus for 4 hrs till its really soft so I can just gulp down without thinking too much about texture.

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