Like many Cantonese children, I grew up regularly eating what I we call Dong Gu. Dong Gu literally means “winter mushroom” and is also known as a Shiitake or Chinese Black Mushroom. Dried Shiitake mushrooms are used in various asian cuisines and are inexpensive, easy to use and if stored correctly, last a long time. Dried Shiitake mushrooms taste nothing like fresh Shiitake. Dried have an intensely savoury earthy flavour and the fresh stuff tastes weak in comparison. Do not substitute fresh for dried!
My family always bring back a bag or two of dried mushrooms back from trips to Hong Kong, but New Zealand customs can be frightful to deal with so it’s not really recommended. Luckily, you can buy dried Shiitake at any Asian grocer these days, perhaps even at your general supermarket.
Dried Mushrooms Tips:
- Once open, store mushrooms in the freezer. While they will last outside the freezer, they can inevitably attract moths and other nasties. No need to thaw before rehydrating as the lack of water means these don’t really freeze.
- Soak using hot water for about half an hour until soft. When soaking, the mushrooms tend to bob to the surface, so soak in a lidded container or prop a plate or bowl on top to keep them submerged.
- Reserve the soaking liquid in a lidded jar and refrigerate. Add to risottos, soups, sauces etc for a delicious, earthy flavour boost.
- Remove the tough stalk and slice the mushrooms up with kitchen scissors straight into your mixing bowl. No extra chopping board to wash 🙂
- With a chewy, meaty texture and a strong flavour, dried Shiitake mushrooms can be used as a meat substitute in vegetarian dishes.
- If you must, substitute dried porcini. Do not substitute with fresh Shiitake.
- Use whole mushrooms (stalk removed) in braises and stews and they will soak up lots of thick, tasty sauce.
As a little girl, one of my favourite meals was steamed ground pork with dried mushrooms. A classic Cantonese dish that you will probably never see in any takeaway or restaurant, it is and served with rice as part of a multi-dish Cantonese style dinner. It’s interesting, many classics from around the world don’t appear in restaurant menus because they are considered too basic or peasant food. It’s a shame. Without international access, these basic dishes may slip away into obscurity. I think it could be 10 years since I last ate this dish and I have fond memories of what would happen to this dish at the end of mealtimes…
Jup Do Lo Mei
Like many cultures, Cantonese have all sorts of dinner etiquette. Proper Chinese etiquette is to take a piece of food from the serving plates the serving chopsticks/spoon (or if not available, your own chopsticks). Put it in your bowl. Then eat it. Followed by a mouthful of rice.
You do not eat straight from the serving platter. You never take food from the communal serving plate and pop it straight into your mouth without stopping by your bowl first. You also don’t call dibs on a whole lot of goods by loading up your bowl with lots of food before you to eat. It’s not a race and it’s not the colonies where you try and grab all the land before it goes. If there is a small plate beside your bowl, this is generally reserved for bones, not for hoarding.
One smashing of etiquette is nicknamed “Jup Do Lo Mei”. Jup – sauce, Do – also, Lo – mix, Mei – as well. This roughly translates to: Mix with sauce. At the end of dinner time, after everyone is full, if you are up for the challenge and if there is a small amount of pork and mushrooms (or your favourite dish) left in the serving plate, you could shotgun “Jup Do Lo Mei”. This means you dump the contents of your rice bowl into the serving plate. The rice soaks up all the yummy liquid at the bottom of the plate and you were entitled to eat straight from the serving plate with a spoon. Joy.
I can’t think of an English equivalent of this method of eating. Not even close. Can you? Do we even have terms for different methods to eat something? We have terms for cooking and one word expressions for eating, but for method?
Remembering the delight of this dish, it was with excitement and a craving that I emailed Mum and asked her to share her recipe with me. It tasted just like I remembered it. Now, I’m sharing this with you.
Steamed Ground Pork with Dried Mushrooms
Makes enough for 2 adults for dinner or for a family as a part of a multi-dish Cantonese style dinner
330grams (3/4 pounds) pork mince
5 dried Shiitake mushrooms
1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon corn flour
2 tablespoons water (can use the mushroom soaking liquid)
- Soak mushrooms for half an hour in hot water and once softened, remove the tough stalks and slice mushroom into 4-5 slices each. (see Tips above)
- Using a spoon, mix all ingredients into a bowl, then transfer and flatten into the base of a shallow bowl or a lined steamer.
- Add 1 cup of water to a wok or large saute pan. Place bowl in top. Cover and steam 20 minutes.
- Serve with a bowl of rice and don’t forget to “Jup Do Lo Mei” to show your appreciation.
TIP: I haven’t tried this , but apparently you can also use the steaming rack in your rice cooker to cook this dish. This would mean you would not need a stove at all. Pretty good if you want to make dinner without a proper kitchen. I’m thinking of a kitchen renovation situation but maybe you can think of more situations where you might have a rice cooker but not a kitchen?