Healthy Miso Soup!
Wood Ear Mushrooms are also called Cows Ear Fungus, Jelly Ear, Judas Ear, Jews Ear and a few other descriptive name. Wood Ear Mushrooms usually grow in deciduous forests in the Northern Hemisphere and they flourish on Elder Trees.
This mushroom species offers good health benefits that include improving respiratory function, cancer fighting properties and they contain chemicals that slow the aging process. Wood Ear Mushrooms also reduce cholesterol levels, they have anti coagulant properties and the help to control diabetes related hypoglycemia. Sore eyes and throat irritations are a couple more things that Wood Ear Mushrooms help to cure.
Dried Wood Ear Mushrooms can be found in grocery stores and fresh Wood Ear Mushrooms are usually stocked in Asian food markets. Wood Ear Mushrooms are often referred to as "meat" by vegetarians in Asia. The flavor of this mushroom is very mild and the texture is as firm as cooked cabbage. These mushrooms are usually featured in soups and saucy stir fry entrées. Chinese Hot Sour Soup usually has Wood Ear Mushrooms in the list of ingredients, so most people that dine in Chinese American restaurants have tried these mushroom at some point in time, whether they know it or not.
Enoki Mushrooms have a delicate flavor and they have health benefits that include anti aging properties as well as improving immune system capability. Wild harvested Enoki offer more potent health benefits and they have a stronger flavor. Wild Enoki are usually sold dried as Golden Mushrooms. Cultivated farm fresh Enoki can be found fresh at Asian food markets and grocery stores.
Collecting Enoki and Wood Ear Mushrooms in the wild is an option, but a word of advice is best given. I spent more than 10 years studying and collecting edible wild mushrooms in the sub tropics. I read volumes of mushroom identification books, before I collected my first edible wild mushroom. The Audubon mushroom identification books have clear photographs and descriptions, but like all mushroom identification books, there are a few errors. Some mushrooms in every mushroom identification guide seem to be misidentified or mislabeled, so it is best to cross reference when doing research.
An understanding of the Latin language makes mushroom identification much easier. Most scientific mushroom names are written in Latin and the names are descriptive. If you are not sure about the identity of a wild mushroom, then never assume that it is edible! Many wild mushrooms contain deadly toxins, so never take risks!
Dried Wood Ear Mushroom Preparation:
This recipe yields 1 garnish portion.
Step 1: Place 4 Dried Wood Ear Mushrooms in a container.
Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
Soak the wood ear mushrooms in a refrigerator overnight.
Step 2: Drain off the soaking liquid.
Julienne slice the reconstituted Wood Ear Mushrooms. (1/8" wide strips)
Set the mushroom strips aside or chill them for later use.
Iriko Wakame Dashi:
This recipe yields about 2 cups.
Iriko Dashi is made with Sun Dried Anchovies. Asian style Sun Dried Anchovies have a nice savory umami flavor that is much milder tasting than Mediterranean anchovy products. An Iriko Dashi is usually boiled for 10 minutes.
Wakame adds a bold savory seaweed flavor. Salt Packed Dried Wakame is only partially dried and a little bit will dramatically increase in size when reconstituted.
Step 1: Place 2 3/4 cups of water in a small sauce pot.
Bring the water to a gentle boil over medium heat.
Add 1/4 cup of small sun dried anchovies. (1" length anchovies)
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of small chopped rinsed Salt Packed Dried Wakame Seaweed.
Step 2: Gently boil for 10 minutes. Allow the volume of broth to reduce to about 2 cups.
*Only add water if the broth reduces too much.
Step 3: Pour the Dashi Broth through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.
*The anchovies and wakame can be eaten as a snack, saved for other recipes or discarded.
Wood Ear Mushroom and Enoki Miso Soup with Sprouts and Wakame Salad:
This recipe yields about 2 cups. (1 portion)
Packages of Pickled Wakame Seaweed Salad (Chuka Kuki Wakame) are available at Asian food markets and some grocery stores.
Step 1: Place the sauce pot of Iriko Wakame Dashi Broth over medium low heat.
Add the reserved reconstituted Wood Ear Mushroom Strips.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of a minced garlic.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of soy sauce.
Add 2 drops of pure sesame oil.
Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
Step 2: Gently simmer the Wood Ear Mushrooms for 5 minutes.
*Add a splash of water if the broth reduces to less than 2 cups in volume.
Step 3: Reduce the temperature to low heat.
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of Pale Yellow Color Miso Paste while stirring with a whisk.
Simmer and stir for one minute, so the miso paste combines.
Step 4: Pour the miso soup into a shallow soup bowl. (2 1/4 cup capacity bowl)
Step 5: Place 1 small bunch of trimmed raw Enoki Mushrooms on one side the soup, so the Enoki point out from center. (About 20 Enoki)
Place 1 small bunch of Mung Bean Sprouts on the opposite side of the soup, so they point out from center. (About 15 sprouts)
*The small bunches of Enoki and sprouts will displace the Wood Ear Mushrooms in the soup and this will create an interesting visual effect!
Step 6: Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of thin bias sliced green onion on the center of the soup.
Mound 2 to 3 tablespoons of Pickled Wakame Seaweed Salad on the center of the soup.
This is a good tasting healthy miso soup that has nice eye appeal!