We have a couple of ‘white foods’ in this dessert – the white fungus (snow ear fungus), the Chinese south and north almonds, which according to Chinese herbalists, are good for nourishing our respiratory systems and lungs. Having downed a bowl of this, my dry throat soothed a bit yet not sure how much the collagen content from the white fungus had improved my skin complexion (because some call it poor man’s bird nest).
Chinese almonds and white fungus are said to synergize the benefits of each other. That explains why they three always appear together in Chinese soups, sweet or savory.
Pairing papaya with the white ingredients is just one way to add more flavor, taste, and texture to the sweet soup. Variations could be endless; I interchangeably include red dates, or lotus seeds, or or dried longan, or wolfberries.
Making this sweet soup is easy although it requires hours of boiling. I rested the white ingredients in a slow cooker (mine is a 1.5L) and let them simmer in water. It was only toward the end of boiling that I attended the soup and added the rock sugar and papaya. I have prepared here a small amount for two, do adjust the quantities as required.
Cooking tender white fungus
There are plenty varieties of white fungus. In my simple classification, I divide them into two types, crunchy or tender, the texture they attain after boiled. To me, it is not easy to tell from their dried form which is which, so I always like to buy white fungus at herbal shops and ask for my preferred type than getting those pre-packaged in supermarkets.
I love to swallow white fungus that is silky and tender in soups. If you are in the same school of me but have bought the crunchy type, then you may try to re-boil it the next day. The crunchy type (which I usually reserve for stir fries) I have ever had turns into smooth and tender pieces after the second boil. Try to see if this trick also applies to yours.
- 1 dried white fungus 雪耳, ~15g
- 1/2 small papaya, ~100g, peeled and cut into bite size
- 1 tbsp south almond 南杏, aka sweet apricot kernels
- 1 tbsp north almond 北杏, aka bitter almonds
- ~30g rock sugar or raw rock sugar
- 4 1/2 cups water
Soak snow ear fungus in water for half to an hour or until it softened and roughly doubled in size. Discard water. Trim the firm part from its bottom (a separate post here has the details and photos).
Tear or cut the fungus into smaller pieces resembling petals. Wash them in a colander under running to remove any dirt. Drain dry.
Wash almonds, soak them in water for about 15 minutes. Discard water.
Put white fungus, almonds, and water in slow cooker. Bring them to a boil and cook for another 4 hours (in my 110W 1.5L slow cooker). You may need a shorter boiling time if using a higher power cooker.
Add sugar and papaya to the soup, and boil until the sugar is dissolved, 5 to 10 minutes.
Serve hot and enjoy!
Choose a papaya that is not too ripe, or it will turn mashy after boiled.
If you are using your slow cooker the first time to cook this, check it out after the soup is bring to the boil to make sure it does not spill over.
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