The mushroom dish

Update: 2/21/2013

Fresh and dried mushrooms are used in many dishes in Vietnam and Cambodia. Dried mushrooms,however,are favoured for stir-fried and savoury fillings because of their texture and delicate taste.

Chinese black
Sometimes known as Chinese shiitake, these pungent mushrooms (nam huong) are usually sold dried. Usually lightbrown in colour with white markings on the surface, they have thick-fleshed caps which can grow to about 5cm/2in in diameter and have a meaty flavour and a distinct texture. Once softened in warm water for about 30 minutes, the stems are removed and the caps are  added to stews, stir-fries and fillings.
Straw mushrooms
Also called bulb mushrooms in Vietnam and Cambodia, straw mushrooms (nam rom) look like tiny brown eggs. The whole mushrooms are often used in braised dishes for appeal and texture.Once peeled, however, they reveal small dark brown caps and stocky, cream coloured stems which look lovely in clear broths. Very delicate in flavour and texture, straw mushrooms are available in cans.They must be drained and thoroughly rinsed before use.
Cloud ears/wood ears
Reminiscent of a human ear in shape,these wonderful looking mushrooms (nam meo) are also called tree ears.Harvested from tree trunks, where they grow as natural fungi, they are valued for their nutritional qualities and are believed to cleanse the blood. Usually sold dried, they are thin and brittle and they need to be soaked in water, where they swell up and resemble frilly clumps of rubbery seaweed. The larger tree ears are two-toned, black and tan coloured, and can be tough; the smaller black ones are more tender.The dried fungus expands to six or eight times its volume after soaking, so use plenty of water. Leave to soak for about 30 minutes, then drain and rinse well, and drain again. On cooking, the mushrooms become quite translucent and gelatinous, but still retain bite. Prized for their chewy texture,rather than taste,they are chopped up and added to stuffings and stir-fries.In Vietnam and Cambodia, these mushrooms are particularly popular in vegetarian dishes.
Oyster mushrooms
In the wild, oyster mushrooms grow in clumps on rotting wood.The caps, gills and stems are all the same colour, which can be pearl grey, pink or yellow.Once thought of as wild mushrooms, they are now grown commercially and are widely 
available in Western supermarkets.The flavour is mild, with a hint of seafood. Oyster mushrooms are popular in soups and stir-fries, and they are also used in noodle and rice dishes.They seldom need trimming. Large ones  should be torn, rather than cut into  pieces.The soft texture becomes rubbery if they are overcooked,so always add them to cooked dishes at the last moment. Buy oyster mushrooms that smell and look fresh, avoiding any with damp, slimy patches and those that have discoloured. Store in a paper bag in the vegetable compartment of  the refrigerator, and use as soon as possible after purchase. They do not keep for more than 2-3 days.

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