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Chinese Mushrooms with Cellophane Noodles

Red fermented bean curd adds extra flavour to this hearty vegetarian dish. It is brick red in colour, with a very strong, cheesy flavour, and is made by fermenting bean curd (tofu) with salt, red rice and rice wine. Look out for it in cans or earthenware pots at Chinese food markets.
If you can't find Szecliuan peppercorns, then use ordinary black ones instead.

ingredients

serves 4
115 g (4 oz) dried Chinese mushrooms
25 g (1 oz) dried wood ears
115 g (4 oz) dried bean curd
30 ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 slices fresh root ginger, finely chopped
10 Szcchuan peppercorns, crushed
15 ml (1 tbsp) red fermented bean curd
1/2 star anise
pinch of sugar
15 - 30 ml (1 - 2 tbsp) soy sauce
50 g (2 oz) cellophane noodles, soaked in hot water until soft
salt

method

1. Soak the Chinese mushrooms and wood ears separately in bowls of hot water for 30 minutes. Break the dried bean curd into small pieces and soak in water according to the instructions on the packet.

2. Strain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Squeeze as much liquid from the mushrooms as possible, then discard the mushroom stems. Cut the cups in half if they are large.

3. The wood ears should swell to five times their original size. Drain them, rinse thoroughly and drain again. Cut off any gritty parts, then cut each wood car into two or three pieces.

4. Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan. Add the garlic, ginger and Szechuan peppercorns. Fry for a few seconds, then add the mushrooms and red fermented bean curd. Mix lightly and fry for 5 minutes.

5. Add the reserved mushroom liquid to the pan, with sufficient water to completely cover the mushrooms. Add the star anise, sugar and soy sauce, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

6. Add the chopped wood ears and reconstituted bean curd pieces to the pan. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes.

7. Drain the cellophane noodles, add them to the mixture and cook for a further 10 minutes until tender, adding more liquid if necessary. Add salt to taste and serve.

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