We’d all love to cook with all-fresh ingredients but during the typhoon season, vegetable supply is low and the prices can be a nightmare. The same holds true for fresh mushrooms. Although canned mushrooms are widely available, I prefer to keep a stock of dried mushrooms for the times when fresh ones aren’t available.
Are dried mushrooms less flavorful than fresh ones? No, if you prepare them correctly. Let’s take these taingang daga (black fungus, cloud ear fungus and wood ear fungus) for example that I used for making a pot of hot and sour soup.
The first thing to remember about dried mushrooms is that they will expand to more than twice their size. So you won’t won’t really need to start with a huge quantity.
To rehydrate the fungus, I place them in a bowl and pour in some warm water. Warm, not hot, okay? If you pour in hot water, they will get soggy so fast you won’t be able to cut them properly. Trust me, I’ve made that mistake in the past and I’ve learned my lesson well. Whole shiitake mushrooms are especially difficult to slice when allowed to get too soft. So what you really want is to get the mushrooms to acquire a texture as though they were fresh rather than cooked.
After 30 minutes, the dried fungus now look like this. Drain them and reserve the soaking water which is really flavorful.
Cut off the woody parts then chop or slice the fungus.
To use the soaking water, strain using a cloth. The water contains sediments and other impurities (soil, sometimes) which you really don’t want to get into your food. So, strain. Do it twice or thrice of you have to. Then, use as you would your meat broth, fish or vegetable stock.