Before making this dish, I'd always only thought of luffa has a hygiene product. You can eat them! Well, before they ripen and dry out, whereupon they're used as sponges. You have to peel the raised ridges, though, as they're tough, and potentially the hole outer skin if it's an older fruit. Actually, I had plenty of luffa, or 絲瓜 si gua, growing up but just never knew its English name or seen it uncooked. It's great; you should definitely try it. In America, we're far too narrow in our diets. Now that I know what it is, I'll look out for it more when I hit the ethnic supermarkets.
The dark, ripply things are a fungus. These are called cloud ears (雲耳 yun er), and are a more delicate relative of wood ears.
- One of the things I enjoy about working out of The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen is the occasional moment when the ingredients hit the hot oil in the wok and the fragrance is spot on, conjuring a sense of familiarity in me, even if I can't remember exactly with what dishes, where, when, I've smelled it before.
- If you've read my older posts, you may have come across times when I've complained about my nearby Harris Teeter. In particular, the lack of freshness in produce and seafood due to low turnover, as well, of course, as not having most of the ethnic foods I want. Well, I tried checking out the closest Giant Food and Safeway, and am disappointed to say that actually, the Harris Teeter is the best there is within several miles of me. Giant was pitiful! Safeway was okay compared to Harris Teeter, if a little worse. Except it has much fresher ginger. Agh.