A Guide To Yunnan’s Wild Mushrooms

Ganba

The ganba, or dried beef mushroom (Thelephora ganba jun), like many mushrooms in China, takes its name from another food it is thought to resemble. It is deeply savory with a pleasantly chewy texture. This species is found only in sandy soils under pine trees, and only in Yunnan. It has a pungent aroma and flavor, like concentrated pine, and is typically served shredded and fried. Back to Season of Plenty: Yunnan's Foraged Mushrooms »Ariana Lindquist

Zhusun

The spectacular zhusun, or bamboo mushroom (Phallus indusiatus), grows in tropical bamboo forests. Available fresh in Yunnan and other parts of China, it can sometimes be found in dried form in Asian markets in North America. Its wrinkled head and veil-like net bring a satisfying, almost tripelike texture to stir-fries and soups. Back to Season of Plenty: Yunnan's Foraged Mushrooms »Ariana Lindquist

Xia Kuai

Less pungent than its cousin the black truffle, the summer truffle, or xia kuai (Tuber aestivum), was not very highly valued in China until the 1990s, when foreign buyers drove up the price. Because cooking can dissipate its delicate flavor, it's best used raw, thinly shaved over rice dishes, potatoes, or eggs. Back to Season of Plenty: Yunnan's Foraged Mushrooms »Ariana Lindquist

Song Rong

Song rong, or pine mushroom (Tricholoma matsutake), is the same mushroom that's called matsutake in Japan, where it commands prices as high as $1000 per pound. The most prized specimens are young, between four and seven inches long, with tight round caps; these will have a very strong, cinnamon-spicy fragrance and a dense, meaty texture. Back to Season of Plenty: Yunnan's Foraged Mushrooms »Ariana Lindquist

Huigai Niugan

A cousin of the highly prized porcino (Boletus edulis), the huigai niugan, or gray Bolete mushroom (Boletus griseus), has a pleasant mild flavor and a Bolete's meaty texture when stir-fried. Back to Season of Plenty: Yunnan's Foraged Mushrooms »Ariana Lindquist

Yuandong Liubing Niugan

Leccinum species, such as yuandong liubing niugan(Leccinum extremiorientale), typically have soft flesh and, when mature, a distinctive scaly stem. Many believe that they are best eaten after drying, which intensifies their otherwise mild, earthy flavor. Back to Season of Plenty: Yunnan's Foraged Mushrooms »Ariana Lindquist

Jicong

The jicong, or chicken-taste mushroom (Termitomyces albuminosus)--known as the termite mushroom in other parts of the world--grows on termite mounds, where it is actually cultivated by termites because it converts wood material that they are unable to digest into sugars. Its flavor is often compared to that of chicken (hence the name); in Yunnan, it's stir-fried with the region's famous ham or added to soups for savory depth. Back to Season of Plenty: Yunnan's Foraged Mushrooms »Ariana Lindquist

Shuangse Niugan

This beautiful, two-tone fungus, shuangse niugan, or two-colored cow's liver mushroom (Boletus bicolor), is another relative of the delectable porcino. It has a similar savory flavor and brings stunning red color to all kinds of dishes. Back to Season of Plenty: Yunnan's Foraged Mushrooms »Ariana Lindquist

Rosso Coral

It looks more like an undersea creature than a forest fungus, hence the name: rosso coral, or shuaba mushroom (Ramaria botrytis). Quick-sauteeing preserves its mild, fruity flavor and its extraordinary, delicately crunchy, cauliflower-like texture. Back to Season of Plenty: Yunnan's Foraged Mushrooms »Ariana Lindquist

Naijiang

The naijiang, or weeping milk cap mushroom (Lactarius volemus), gets its name from the milky sap it exudes when its gills are damaged. It's also called fishy milk cap, for its pronounced fishy smell--though it's worth noting that the flavor isn't fishy at all, but mild and sweet. Back to Season of Plenty: Yunnan's Foraged Mushrooms »Ariana Lindquist

Qingtou

Often found growing beside forest paths in late summer and early fall, the qingtou, or green head mushroom (Russula virescens), has a gorgeous sea-green head crisscrossed with fissures that give it a mosaic appearance. Its nutty flavor is enhanced by roasting or toasting. Back to Season of Plenty: Yunnan's Foraged Mushrooms »Ariana Lindquist

Meiwui Rugu

Like other Lactarius species, meiwui rugu, or saffron milk cap mushroom (Lactarius deliciosus), benefits from long cooking--in a stew, say--to render its slightly grainy texture luscious. It releases the same sap as its Lactarius relatives, which adds richness and thickness to sauces. Back to Season of Plenty: Yunnan's Foraged Mushrooms »Ariana Lindquist