Chinese mushroom with oyster sauce

Braised Chinese mushrooms with oyster sauce, memories of Chinese New Year

Ingredients

  • 20 large dry Chinese mushrooms. soak in hot water for at least 20 minutes to soften, remove and discard the stems; reserve the liquid
  • 2 tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 10 baby corns
  • 2 tsp corn flour, mixed with 2 tbsp. of water
Trimming the stems of hydrated Chinese mushrooms
Trimming the stems of rehydrated Chinese mushrooms

Method

  • In a sauce pan, add Chinese mushrooms and sufficient soaking liquid to cover the mushrooms, oyster sauce, sesame oil, chili, salt and white pepper, bring to boil; then cook on low heat for approximately 1 hour or until the mushrooms are tender (time required depends on the type of the mushroom)
  • Add carrot and baby corns, stir well, bring to boil again
  • Add the corn flour mixture, bring to boil again, stir frequently until the sauce is thickened

I still remember vividly the wonderful days around the Chinese New Years – the extended families gathered around dinner tables, all cheerful and chatty; the wok sizzled with the aroma of deliciousness; the rolling pins, hot frying oil, and the irresistible sweet peanut pastry with sesame and coconut.

My memories of Chinese New Year

Flowers for Chinese New Year

There were flower markets (花街) around the Chinese New Year period. Families went to the street market to select their festival decorations. A pot of kumquat (金橘) was a must. ‘Kum’ means gold and ‘quat’ has the same prounouciation as 吉, meaning good fortune and prosperity. A cutting of blossoming  peach (桃花) was very popular, a symbol of strength and vitality with beautiful flowers emerging from the harshness of the winter. Also popular were the chrysanthemum and peony, large and colorful, symbols of luck and prosperity.

Father and son enjoying a chat at Chinese New Year 1960s
My grandfather and my father enjoying a conversation at Chinese New Year (1960s). The table was decorated with chrysanthemum.

Firecrackers

When it was close to the midnight, we rushed home to light our fire crackers. There was one time that we were late and ran into the fire cracker storms at mid-night. The crackers and the odd firework were loud and smoky, with laughter of the children, so much joy and happiness.

Chinese new year firecrackers
Chinese new year firecrackers

Red envelops

The next morning the streets were quiet with a red carpet of paper left behind by the fire crackers. Kids got up early to collect the odd fire crackers that did not go off the previous night. They ran around greeting their relatives with ‘goon he fa choi’ (恭喜發財) which means wishing you a good fortune. They were given red envelopes with some money in it which they would use to buy snacks for months to come.

Chinese new year red envelopes
Chinese new year red envelopes

Vegetarian meals

After the big feast on the New Year’s Eve, vegetarian meals were common on the first day of the new year.  My favorite dish was the braised Chinese mushrooms, a delicacy rarely consumed during the year. The mushrooms were cooked with different types of dry or fresh vegetables – lily buds, fungus, dry tofu sticks, hair vegetable 髮菜 and bamboo shoots. The aroma of the dish is still lingering in my mind.

Nowadays I cook Chinese mushrooms often and everybody in our extended family love it.  We are thankful for what we are able to enjoy today.

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Chinese mushroom with oyster sauce
Chinese mushroom with oyster sauce

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