Lei’s Dessert

13 08 2012

I’m sharing an office with Lei, who is from Shanghai, and a fantastic conversationalist. Since our discussions often turn to food, she brought this traditional dessert to work for me to try. She loves it and was excited over obtaining the dried fungus through an online shop in Hamburg. Honestly, it was all I could do to swallow the stuff, but I’m so honored that she would share it with me.

Tremella fuciformis has been cultivated in China since at least the nineteenth century.[14] Initially, suitable wooden poles were prepared and then treated in various ways in the hope that they would be colonized by the fungus. This haphazard method of cultivation was improved when poles were inoculated with spores or mycelium. Modern production only began, however, with the realization that both the Tremella and its host species needed to be inoculated into the substrate to ensure success. The “dual culture” method, now used commercially, employs a sawdust mix inoculated with both fungal species and kept under optimal conditions.[15] The most popular species to pair with T. fuciformis is its preferred host, Annulohypoxylon archeri.[1] Estimated production in China in 1997 was 130,000 tonnes. Tremella fuciformis is also cultivated in other East Asian countries, with some limited cultivation elsewhere.[15]

In Chinese cuisine, Tremella fuciformis is traditionally used in sweet dishes. While tasteless, it is valued for its gelatinous texture as well as its supposed medicinal benefits.[16] Most commonly, it is used to make a dessert soup called luk mei (六味), often in combination with jujubes, dried longans, and other ingredients. It is also used as a component of a drink and as an ice cream. Since cultivation has made it less expensive, it is now additionally used in some savoury dishes.[16]

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