Tuesday, 22 October 2013 22:04

Cooking with the wondrous wood ear mushroom

The wood ear mushroom is an ingredient I just HAD TO buy because of its looks. Shriveled and curly at the edges, ashen grey and brownish black it did not look like anything that should end up in your dish. I had used dried Shitake mushrooms before at Mary’s Dinner Club and the girl in the Vietnamese shop told me it was used in a similar way so I was good to go.

What is so wondrous about the wood ear mushroom?

A wood ear mushroom distantly resembles an ear and is sometimes also called jelly ear. You are likely to have encountered the wood ear mushroom during a meal at a Chinese restaurant  in your sweet & sour soup – often called Mu-err on menus. Its chewy texture, its dark brown-black color and its curly edges add excitement to any soup or dish for that matter.

Mu-err mushrooms have long been used for their medicinal benefits in Oriental medicine. They have a very mild earthy flavor, slightly woody and nutty. Its texture is rubbery and gelatinous. Its springy chewy texture becomes crunchy when cooked.

What do I do with the wood ear mushroom?

You will find them dried and vacuum packed at your local Asian shop. Basically all you have to do, is soak them in warm water for about 10 minutes and use them. Here a simple introduction

They are great in stir fries, soups, spring rolls, salads and even omelets and go well with all the traditional ingredients of Asian cuisine like snow peas, water chestnuts, tofu, carrots, bok choy…

Basic and super easy recipe for sweet & sour soup with wood ear mushroom

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 150 g tofu, cut into cubes
  • 100 g bamboo shoots, thinly sliced
  • 100 g cooked beef, pork or chicken, sliced (optional)
  • 3-5 dried and rehydrated mushrooms
  • 2 spring onions chopped
  • Chicken, beef or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon (rice) vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Salt, (white) pepper, chili flakes (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch


  • Heat broth
  • Add bamboo shoots, mushrooms and meat or chicken (optional)
  • Let simmer for 5 minutes
  • Add tofu and spices
  • Mix cornstarch with a few spoons of water and add
  • Sprinkle with spring onions and serve very hot

If you are unable to find wood ear mushroom in any of your local markets, you can also order them online. They may seem pricey initially, but you’ll need very little – bear in mind that you will soak them and they will at least triple in volume.

Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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