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Black Fungus (Mushroom) 

Thought to have been originally cultivated in China for both culinary and medicinal purposes, the black fungus mushroom can be found in cuisines throughout East and Southeast Asia extending to the Polynesian Triangle from Hawaii in the north to its southern most presence in New Zealand. There, black fungus has been used in Maori cooking for centuries along with being grown and exported to China.

Although distinct from wood ear fungus, the two are closely related and used similarly. Black fungus has an umami aroma but is extremely mild in flavor and mostly valued for its texture.  Typically available in a dried form, resembling seaweed from certain angles, it transforms into a somewhat jelly-like consistency after being soaked for an hour for reconstitution.  

The mild flavor lends itself as a complement to other ingredients, even desserts, which you’ll mostly find in Cantonese cuisine. Black fungus takes on the flavors of the ingredients it’s cooked with while providing extra bite in the texture of a dish, so is popular in soups and some stir fries.

Nutritionally, it’s high in fiber and has an additional bonus of containing the main electrolytes — that is, calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium — plus phosphorus and folate. Traditionally, it’s also been used to fight sore throats and other ailments. 

You can find dried black fungus at Uwajimaya in our grocery department