Black fungus comes in two forms at the Chinese supermarket; sold dried, either in large pieces, or shredded finely. Cloud ear fungus are more delicate in flavour, whereas wood ear fungus are larger and thicker. Both need to be soaked in hot water for about 15 minutes to rehydrate them, and they almost double in size once done so. When used in large pieces, they're a little jelly-like in texture, but with an unmistakable crunch.
This recipe was inspired by a dish served by my favourite Chinese restaurant, Silk Road. They cook slices of pork together with cabbage and black fungus, strongly tinged with the flavour of vinegar, in a cornstarch-thickened sauce. I played around with the vegetable combinations, settling on celery as it is robust enough to stand up to the high heat of the wok, while still retaining texture. The pork is seared until bronzed and caramelised and the marinade keeps it tender. I opted for a drier dressing rather than a sauce, to keep the components bright and perky.
Stir-Fried Pork with Black Fungus & Celery
Serves 2 with a vegetable side dish
150gr pork loin, sliced thinly
2 stalks of celery, peeled with a vegetable peeler and sliced diagonally
3 pieces of black fungus, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes and chopped roughly
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, skin scraped off and minced
1 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp Chinkiang black vinegar
1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 tsp cornflour
A pinch of sugar
A pinch of white pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 stalk of spring onion, whites and greens separated - greens julienned and whites chopped roughly
In a bowl, mix together the rice wine, cornflour, 1 tbsp of light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, white pepper and the pork. Mix together well and set to one side to marinade while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in the wok on a high heat until it is smoking. Add the pork and spread around the wok so that the slices get well seared on one side, then turn over and do the same. Remove to a plate - they don't need to be cooked through, as they'll be cooked again.
Wipe the wok clean and heat the remaining tbsp of oil on a high heat. When it starts smoking, turn down to a medium heat. Add the ginger, garlic and whites of the spring onion and stir-fry briskly for a minute. Turn the heat up high and add the celery and black fungus. Stir fry for 30 seconds, then add a splash of water and stir fry until it is dry. Add another splash of water to repeat. Then, add the pork back in with the remaining tbsp light soy, 50ml water, the pinch of sugar and finally the black vinegar. Stir fry until glossy, about 30 seconds, then remove to a bowl and garnish with the julienned spring onion greens.