The last part of my second Chinese New Year dinner was made up of chicken braised with shiitake mushrooms (a.k.a. dried black Chinese mushrooms that were re-hydrated) and black moss, as well as some BBQ eel for the fish dish (sorry, no pics of the fish). I had no hand in making this, except for eating it with great pleasure.
The moss was always something I loved eating as a kid as I always found it fascinating. The stuff basically tastes like a less salty seaweed, has a texture similar to vermicelli, and looks like hair. It also absorbs liquid really well, so when placed into a soup or braised stew, the flavours are all soaked up into the moss. Authentic black moss should actually be a very dark green, not black. If it’s black, it’s fake. Chinese usually eat the moss during new year celebrations because it’s called “fat choy,” which in Cantonese is very close to the words for prosperity and riches (as in the new year greeting Gong Hei Fat Choy).
I’m somewhat troubled by the Wikipedia page about fat choy. Apparently it’s the cause of erosion and desertification in the Gobi desert and Qinghai plateau. And some doctors in Hong Kong came out with a report saying that eating fat choy may lead to the development of degenerative diseases. I’m not 100% convinced about the medical report as it’s only one study and people have been eating this stuff for hundreds of years. The environmental impact troubles me though. We may not eat it again after we finish the packages that I bought last Friday.
Also, why are the mushrooms generally more well known in English using the name shiitake? They originated in China, not Japan. Curious. I’ve wondered this about daikon too. Maybe I’m thinking about it too much. 🙂
Anyway, I hope you had a lovely Chinese New Year. I know I did.