What I like about desserts or sweet bites in China, is that they aren’t too sweet. Sometimes salted dishes taste sweeter than desserts. This dish isn’t my recipe, it’s a classical sweet soup that flavour-wise reminds me more of a tea. I’ve found this sweet soup in many parts of China but I think it originates from Sichuan.
White fungus (literally meaning gold ears, yín’ěr, 银耳 in Chinese) is an edible gelatinous fungus that grows on trees in many Asian countries. It’s also often called white fungus, white wood ear or tremella. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is one of the vegan ingredients that has been used to treat ailments for centuries, mostly for boosting lung and respiratory health (for fèiqì, 肺气). My friends tell me in boosts collagen in the skin, and it thus is especially popular amongst woman as ‘an anti-ageing health soup’. I’m not so sure that it works for that, but I do notice that all gelatinous TCM ingredients are dubbed anti-ageing and collagen boosting, even by experienced and qualified doctors. I suspect this is less to do with scientific evidence that proves this, and more to do with the fact that TCM principles for healing are based on the inherent qualities of things in the natural world. So it makes sense then that tender, gelatinous textures in TCM healing foods are said to boost in the human body what they resemble, the suppleness of the skin (and even mind). The dried red dates (hóngzǎo, 红枣) are sticky and sweet, and the dried goji berries (gǒuqǐ, 枸杞) not so sweet, but sweeter and easier to eat when soaked in teas and soups in my opinion. Both are also part of the TCM healing foods brigade, easy to find and even available in most local pharmacies.
It is very easy to find all these these ingredients both in and outside of China, they are relatively cheap ingredients that are purchased dried and have a long shelf-life. Good quality dried snow fungus should appear slightly yellow in parts. If you find one that doesn’t appear slightly yellow in parts, it has probably been bleached white.
soaking overnight + 45 minutes
Snow fungus, dried, 50g
Chinese red dates, 5-6
Goji berries, 2 tbsp
Water, 300ml +
Raw local honey, 1-2 tbsp
1. Soak the snow fungus overnight or for at least 4 hours until very soft.
2. Drain the water, trim off the yellow bits of the snow fungus and then cut into small pieces.
3. Add the snow fungus and raw local honey to a pan of water and boil very slowly and gently for 25 minutes on a low-heat, check on stir occasionally. Keep the lid tightly sealed.
4. Then add the red dates and goji berries (and a drop more water if necessary) and continue to boil on a low-heat for another 10 minutes.