Morels are a delicacy in Western cooking, but did you know that they are regarded as a tonic in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)?
In TCM, the fungi are believed to help reduce phlegm and boost one's immunity by regulating the body's qi (vital energy). They are usually cooked in soups.
In Mandarin, morels are called yang du jun (lamb's stomach mushroom) as their outer appearance resembles lamb stomachs.
There are several grades of morels from China - wildgrown and cultivated - available here.
At Queen Street Trading, which sells dried seafood and Chinese herbs, manager Walter Chua, 48, has noticed a surge in customer interest in morels this year.
He says foreign tourists, especially the Europeans, are often surprised to see morels sold here. At his shop, cultivated morels are priced at $23 per Chinese tael (37.5g). The wild variety can fetch as much as $40 for the same quantity.
Mr Chua says: "Cultivated morels are more affordably priced compared with those of the wild variety, so more customers are willing to try the cultivated ones."
Wild morels have a strong aroma similar to cordyceps, which are more expensive, and are often used as a substitute in tonic soups, adds Mr Chua. Cultivated morels similarly can be used to impart a woody savoury aroma to soups, at a more economical price.
When cooking tonic soups, he recommends allocating two morels for each person. Other Chinese herbs to add include dried Mandarin orange peel, which is also believed to help reduce phlegm and aid digestion.
Instead of the standard grade of yuzhu (Solomon's seal), you can try adding in a premium grade, called hai yuzhu, which is sweeter in flavour.
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MORELS CHICKEN SOUP
- 250ml hot water
- 8 pieces of morel (16g)
- 1.8 litres water (for blanching)
- 4 whole chicken leg quarters (900g), skin removed
- 3.8 litres water
- 31g hai yuzhu (Solomon's seal)
- 35g huai shan (Chinese wild yam)
- 4 black dates (37g), halved
- 6 red dates (25g)
- 3g dried Mandarin orange peel
- 11g wolfberries
- 1 tsp salt
1. Soak the morels in 250ml of hot water for 20 minutes. Squeeze and rinse.
2. Use a pair of scissors to remove the stems. Set aside.
3. Bring 1.8 litres of water to a boil. Blanch the chicken until there is no more blood. Remove the chicken and rinse.
4. In a clean and sturdy pot, bring 3.8 litres of water to a boil.
5. Place the blanched chicken and morels into the pot.
6. Add the hai yuzhu, huai shan, black dates, red dates and dried Mandarin orange peel.
7. Cover and bring to a boil.
8. Once the soup reaches a boil, turn the heat to low and simmer covered for 1 hour and 50 minutes.
9. Add in the wolfberries and season with salt.
Simmer for another 10 minutes.
10. Serve hot.
Makes four servings.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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