Names: Black fungus, cloud ears, wood fungus, wood ear fungus, ear fungus, Chinese fungus
Description: Black fungus usually comes dried in packages like the one pictured above. It is hardened when dried, black on one side and off-white on the other side. When reconstituted in water, black fungus turns black, gelatinous and slimy.
Uses: Black fungus is used in many traditional Chinese dishes like jai, potstickers, hot sour soup, etc.
Preparation: Before using black fungus, you need to soak it in water for at least 20 minutes or until it is soft. Then wash thoroughly. You should always discard the black fungus water (do not use for cooking).
Where to buy: Asian market, Chinatown or Amazon
Names: Chinese turnip, daikon, white radish, Japanese radish, icicle radish, lo bak, lo pak
Description: Daikon is a root vegetable that looks like a really long, thick, white carrot, although they can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For best results in Chinese cooking, we typically use the carrot shaped version that comes to a very skinny root-like tip at one end and a leafy carrot-like top on the other end (pictured above without the leaves).
Uses: Daikon is used a lot in Chinese and Japanese cooking. Cantonese make turnip cakes (lo bak go) or boil it in soup stock for added flavor. You can also grate the daikon and add it to soy sauce to make a dipping sauce for butter-yaki and shabu shabu.
Description: Fresh ginger is a root that looks like a fat crooked piece of bamboo. It has a very strong flavor with a bit of a zing and is used in many Asian dishes.
Uses & Preparation: To use ginger, you first need to cut off the smaller stubs and peel the skin with a potato peeler. Once you do that you can either mince, slice or use whole pieces as flavoring in soups, stir fry dishes, sauces, and even treats.
Where to buy: Most grocery stores.
Names: Shitake mushrooms, black mushrooms
Description: Shitake mushroom usually comes in a dried form. They are dark brown on top and light beige underneath.
Uses: Shitake can be used like any other mushroom. It’s great as a garnish for soups, in stir fry dishes, or any dish where mushrooms are used for flavor like papillote and risotto.
Preparation: If you’re using dried shitake, you need to first soak it in warm water until it reconstitutes and is soft all the way through (about 30 minutes).