Pork with Black Wood Ear

Black Wood Ear is a specialty product of Puli, Taiwan. Fresh black wood ear is smooth and wonderfully crunchy. It is available in the traditional street markets in Taiwan but you can also find dried ones in Asian supermarkets. IMG_6828

Black wood ear is sometimes called black fungus. If you buy the dried kind, just soak it in water for an hour to reconstitute it.  Then it can be used in a stir fry, add it to soups or even in salads. Its crunchy texture and dark, velvety color adds an unusual element to even the most basic dish. I like to use it in a stir fry with pork or steamed with chicken.  You can also make a vegetarian stir fry with olive oil, garlic, black wood ear, mushrooms and broccoli (or with celery, sweet peas, zucchini, cucumber etc… works with whatever vegetables you have on hand!).  By itself, it does not have any flavor but it takes on the fragrant flavor of garlic or the meat that you are cooking it with.

Black wood ear is actually very nutritious.  According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is especially beneficial for blood, as it can nourish the blood and prevent blood coagulation and frequent consumption of black wood ear prevents coronary heart disease. In addition, black wood ear supposedly counteracts high cholesterol, increases body fluids, and adds moisture to the lung – especially great for autumn when our throats/lungs get very dry.

180g pork, cut into 1 inch strips
half a cup of black wood ear
2 small Japanese cucumbers, peeled and sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp cooking oil
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2-4 tbsp water

Marinade for pork:
1/2 tsp sugar
1 and 1/2 tbsps light soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp corn starch
1 tbsp water
pinch of salt

  1. Marinate the pork for at least half an hour, with sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, black pepper, corn starch, salt and water.
  2. Prepare the black wood ear.  If using fresh wood ear, just rinse it, then parboil it for 5 mins, drain the water and set aside.  If using dried black wood ear, you need to soak it in water for an hour, rinse, then parboil for 5 mins, drain and set aside.  (It expands when fully reconstituted, so I often cut it into smaller pieces before stir frying)
  3. Heat the cooking oil, stir fry the garlic for a few seconds, then add in the pork and stir fry until light brown.
  4. Add in the cucumber, black wood ear, oyster sauce and stir fry together with the pork.  Add one or two tablespoons of water if it seems kind of dry. Stir fry for 5 mins or until the cucumber and pork are cooked.  Serve hot with rice. Enjoy!

Chicken in Tofu Cheese

Tofu Cheese? It’s fermented tofu (腐乳 or “fu yu” in Cantonese), sold in little glass bottles in Asian grocery stores. It’s a form of preserved tofu, made from soybeans. The other ingredients on the bottle list salt, rice wine and sesame oil. There’s a regular version and a spicy version which has bits of chili in the brine.

Tofu cheese is commonly used as a condiment for porridge or to stir fry kangkong vegetables (空心菜 “kong xin cai”, water convolvulus) but it makes a delicious savory marinade for chicken.  It is unbelievably easy – just be sure to marinate the chicken with it long enough, so that the flavor gets into the meat.  Deep fried chicken wings marinated with tofu cheese are incredibly tasty too!

Chicken in Tofu Cheese
I don’t deep-fry (too lazy to clean!), so here’s the healthy pan-fried version. I used the regular version of Tofu Cheese. I realized the chicken came out a bit pale in the photo – I should have fried it a bit longer to give it a more golden color.


Tofu Cheese

2-3 cubes of Tofu Cheese (regular or spicy), mashed into a paste, using a fork
1 teaspoon of the brine from the Tofu Cheese bottle
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 pieces whole chicken legs
dash of salt (optional – Tofu Cheese is naturally salty)
1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste (“belacan”) – optional

2-3 shallots, peeled and chopped, for frying
3 tablespoon cooking oil

1 stalk of spring onion, washed and cut into 1 inch pieces (for garnish)


1. Cut the chicken legs into smaller pieces, rinse and pat dry with a paper towel.

2. Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl.  Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, thoroughly coat the chicken pieces with the marinade and let sit it for a few hours, preferably overnight, in the fridge.

3. Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan. Fry the shallots for 1-2 minutes, then add in the chicken and stir fry until golden brown.

4. Dish up the chicken and garnish with spring onion. It goes really well with steam rice and vegetables.

(Tofu Cheese on spoon, photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fermentedchilibeancurd.jpg)

Peking Style Baby Back Ribs

The aroma of tantalizing, slow-cooked ribs greets me every evening when I walk past this famous ribs restaurant near my home. On weekends, there is a long line of people waiting to get in. Not willing to spend an hour standing in line, my deep craving for some mouth-watering ribs prompted me to make my own. I found a quick and easy recipe online for American style pork ribs. It called for a dry rub which I didn’t have on hand so I decided to omit that. I also couldn’t find that particular brand of BBQ sauce at my local supermarket. Not surprisingly, the ribs came out a little bland… so what do you do with a whole rack of bland-ish ribs? With some inspiration from a Chinese recipe for Peking Style Spareribs, I made a tangy seasoning sauce and smothered the ribs with it. What a world of difference! The tangy sauce is so finger-licking good, I am definitely going to make ribs this way again.


1 lb pork ribs (cut into 6 separate ribs to speed up cooking time)


5 Tbsp store bought BBQ sauce (I used Heinz. Hunt’s BBQ sauce works too)
3 Tbsp ketchup
1/2 tsp sweet chili sauce (optional)

Tangy seasoning sauce:
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp ketchup
1/2 tsp salt

1. Rinse and pat dry the ribs with a kitchen towel.
2. Rub both sides of the ribs with salt and pepper.
3. Combine the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl. Coat the ribs completely with the marinade.
4. Lay the ribs on a sheet of aluminium foil and seal tightly.
5. Refrigerate the ribs for at least 1 hour.
6. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
7. Transfer the ribs in the sealed aluminium foil to a baking tray.
8. Open up the foil, keeping the ribs loosely covered, bake for 1 hour. Then remove the aluminium foil covering and bake for 30 minutes.
9. Combine the ingredients for the tangy seasoning sauce in a bowl and set aside.
9. Take the ribs out of the oven and brush all over with the seasoning sauce before serving.

(inspired by ribs recipe at http://www.instructables.com/id/Quick-Easy-Baby-Back-Ribs-Recipe/)

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