Chinese Braised Mushrooms & Black Moss (a.k.a Fat Choy) is a classic and traditional dish during Chinese New Year. In Chinese culture and tradition, people like to create dishes that share similar phonetics to auspicious phrases. Fat Choy (髮菜), i.e. Chinese black moss, share similar sounds to “get rich” (發財). Therefore it’s a popular item to include on the Chinese New Year menu. The dish is also typically cooked with dried oysters, creating the name “Fat Choy Dried Oysters”, which shares similar phonetics to the phrase “struck it rich and prosperity” (髮菜蠔豉 vs 發財好市).
This dish may not look the most visually appealing nor do the ingredients seem to be the most popular items you’d find. Nevertheless, trust me it’s one incredibly delicious dish that you’d love. It’s actually my most favourite dish for Chinese New Year. When I was young, I used to joke that the black moss is like hair and that I’m eating hair – I’m pretty sure every Chinese kid had that phase at some point joked about that.
Apart from tradition, this dish holds dearly to me because it’s one of my favourite dishes from my grandma. She definitely makes the best Chinese Braised Mushrooms & Black Moss! Whenever I ask for tips and tricks, she always says the key is to have high-graded dried shiitake mushrooms (花菇/冬菇) and good quality Fat Choy. And then it’s giving it enough time to soak and marinate to ensure the maximal amount of flavours are being released as well as attaining a smooth meaty texture for the mushrooms.
Chinese Braised Mushrooms & Black Moss Recipe (冬菇髮菜)
Generally, you can just cook this dish in a regular pot but I’d highly recommend using a clay pot if possible. Clay pot really helps to lock in the moisture and flavour. The earthy taste and aroma that comes from its earthen material pair incredibly well and really adds to the dish.
On another note, though the use of dried oysters is very popular and typical for braised Chinese mushroom dish (髮菜蠔豉), I personally like using dried scallops instead. I don’t mind dried oysters but they are a little harder to come by. Dried scallops are also more versatile so I tend to have them stored in my pantry as opposed to dried oysters which I don’t use often. It may have taken out the “good prosperity 好市” part for phonetic auspice but you still get the “get rich 發財” part from the black moss/fat choy!
What is Chinese Black Moss/Fat Choy (髮菜)
Fat Choy is a form of dried vegetables that grows specifically in the Gobi Desert and the Qinghai Plateau (Tibetien/Himalayan Plateau). Its Chinese name “髮菜” translates as “hair vegetables”. This is because it looks like a bundle of black hair! Not very appetising by the looks of it – I know. You need to soak it beforehand to soften it before cooking which makes it look more like super fine vermicelli for consumption.
Over the years, over-harvesting wild Fat Choy has caused erosion and desertification to the lands. Grown on dried desert lands, wild Fat Choy plays a huge role in preserving water and preventing from desertification. They don’t grow in huge abundance to start with and mass harvesting them has led to the lands eroding detrimentally. This has led to the Chinese government banning any wild harvest and export since 2000.
The Fat Choy you see today are either artificially grown or cultivated from seaweed. You should be able to find them at some oriental supermarkets.
High-Grade Shiitake Mushrooms
Chinese Braised Mushrooms typically use high-grade shiitake mushrooms, which also comes with a heftier price.
The highest grade would be Flower Mushroom (花菇), which features a flower-like pattern at the cap and has the thickest and most meaty texture. A common alternative is Winter Mushroom (冬菇) which is cheaper in price but still thick and meaty enough to be the star of the dish.
Either types of mushrooms should be available at most oriental supermarkets. You should look for those with thick caps and with rounded edges curling inwards as opposed to flat ones.
How to make Chinese Braised Mushrooms with Black Moss (Fat Choy)
Briefly rinse dried shiitake mushrooms then soak them overnight until softened and expanded. Remove the stem and reserve the water used for soaking for later use in the cooking process. Marinate the now-rehydrated mushrooms with sesame oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce, cornflour, and sugar. My grandma insists that the secret trick to the dish is to give each mushroom a quick little “massage” to get the marinade in. Out of habit, I always give them a little squeeze and brief massage before letting it marinate on the side for 20 minutes.
Rehydrate the dried scallops by soaking them for at least 30 minutes until softened. Shred into thin threads. Also reserved the water used for soaking for cooking later.
The last of preparation: soak the Black Moss (Fat Choy) for 30 minutes until softened.
Separate the white and green parts of spring onions. Using the sides of your knife, lightly smash the white parts. Slice the green parts for garnishing later.
Heat oil in a large pot over high heat. Add sliced ginger and the smashed white parts of spring onions. Fry for 1-2 minute until fragrant and lightly charred. Add in the mushrooms and saute for 3-5 minutes. Stir in both light and dark soy sauces, oyster sauce, as well as a pinch of salt to season.
Pour in 1/2 cup reserved mushroom water and add in shredded dried scallops along with 1/4 cup of the reserved soaking water. Bring to a boil then add the black moss (fat choy). Toss to mix everything together. Add 1/2 cup of water and then turn to medium-low heat. Cover with a lid and let braise for 30 minutes.
Add a splash of water if the mixture has got too dry. Alternatively, let cook for longer if it’s still too liquid.
Toss in sliced green parts of spring onions until they start to wilt. Serve immediately.
Chinese Braised Mushrooms & Black Moss (Fat Choy)
- 2 tbsp Cooking Oil
- 10 g Ginger sliced
- 25 g Chinese Black Moss (Fat Choy) soaked
- 60 g Dried Shiitake Mushrooms (Flower Mushroom or Winter Mushroom) reserving ½ cup soaking water (see prepping instructions)
- 2 Dried Scallops reserving ¼ cup soaking water (see prepping instructions)
- 3 stalks Spring Onions separating white and green parts (see prepping instructions)
- 1 tbsp Light Soy Sauce
- 1 tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
- 1½ tbsp Oyster Sauce
- ½-1 tsp Salt to taste
- ½ cup Water
For marinating the Mushrooms
- 1 tbsp Sesame Oil
- 1 tbsp Cornflour
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 1 tbsp Oyster Sauce
- ½ tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
- 1 tbsp Light Soy Sauce
- Briefly rinse the mushrooms and soak the mushrooms in a bowl of water ideally overnight until softened and expanded in size.
- Remove stems and transfer the mushrooms to a separate bowl. Reserve at least ½ cup of the water used for soaking the mushrooms.
- Mix in the mushroom marinade ingredients. Give each mushroom a squeeze and massage to let the marinade get in. Set aside to marinate for 20 minutes.
- For the dried scallops, soak in ¼ cup of water for 30 minutes until softened. Reserve the water used for soaking. Shred up the scallops into thin threads.
- Soak the Chinese black moss (fat choy) for 30 minutes until softened.
- Separate the white and green parts of the spring onions. For the white parts, lightly smash them using the sides of your knife. For the green parts, finely slice them and set aside for garnishing later.
- Heat cooking oil in a large pot over high heat. Add sliced ginger and the smashed white parts of the spring onions into the pot. Fry for 1-2 minutes until fragrant and lightly charred.
- Add in the mushrooms. Saute for 3-5 minutes.
- Stir in both light and dark soy sauces, oyster sauce, and salt.
- Pour in the reserved water for soaking the mushrooms. Then add in the shredded scallops together with the reserved water used for soaking.
- Bring to a boil then add the black moss (fat choy). Toss to mix everything together.
- Add water and turn to medium-low heat. Cover with lid and let braise for 30 minutes.
- Add a splash of water if the mixture has got too dry. Alternatively, let cook for longer if it's still too liquid.
- Toss in sliced green parts of spring onions until they start to wilt. Serve immediately.
- Flower Mushroom (花菇) is the highest grade of dried shiitake mushrooms, followed by Winter Mushroom (冬菇). Both mushrooms have thick and meaty caps, which are essential to this dish.
- For best results, cooking in a clay pot is highly recommended.
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