Wood ear fungus sounds a bit nicer, don’t you think? And probably the most accurately descriptive. It’s a rather meaty, gelatinous fungus that grows on fallen or live tree trunks. When it is dried it shrinks dramatically and perhaps that’s were the local name “tenga ng daga” or “rat’s ears” come from. Why anyone would give it that name when it is placed in various food dishes is just one of those weird things, I guess. I have never come across fresh wood ear mushrooms before, so when I spied some at the Salcedo market this morning, at the Ministry of Mushrooms stall, I bought a small container for PHP75. They also had fresh shiitake mushrooms, button mushrooms and oyster mushrooms, along with the wood ear fungus. But they apparently only grow the oyster mushrooms.
A fairly common ingredient in China, Japan and Taiwan, they are most often locally in pancit or egg noodle dishes. I suppose they would be a textural addition to a plate of stir-fried vegetables and might also be interesting julienned and added to things like deep-fried spring rolls. I have no idea what we will be using them for just yet…
These specimens were rather large, and the underside looked like the inside of a mammal’s ear, with some fuzz and well, frankly, stuff that looks like a Q-Tip would clean out rather nicely, thank you. :)