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Pickled Chili Wood Ear Salad (Liangban Mu'er, 凉拌木耳)

Author: Kathy Yuan | The Mala Market | Inspiration & Ingredients for Sichuan Cooking


  • 15 grams dried cloud ear fungus approx. level ⅓ cup of loose cloud ear
  • 2-3 small cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
  • 15-20 grams paojiao (approx. 1 small pickled chili pepper or ½ large one), thinly sliced
  • ½ tablespoon Chinese light soy sauce (Zhongba preferred)
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar (Baoning preferred)
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese toasted sesame oil (Cuizi preferred)
  • pinch sugar approx. 1/16 teaspoon
  • pinch salt approx. 1/16 teaspoon, to taste
  • pinch MSG optional
  • handful fresh cilantro leaves, washed and dried


  • In a medium bowl, add the dried cloud ear fungus and fill halfway with cool water. After 10-15 minutes, check that the expanding fungus is still covered by water. If not, add enough water to cover. At the 30 minute mark, gently agitate the fungus in the water and scrub lightly with your fingers to loosen up any sediment. Rinse clean and add new water, repeating the process, until the soaking water remains clear after agitating.
    Continue to soak for 1.5 hours total, until fungus has fully opened and feels soft and pliable. If using a wood ear variety other than young cloud ear, soak for 2 hours instead.
  • Drain the rehydrated cloud ear and bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the cloud ear for 2 minutes (if using other wood ear, cook for 3-5 minutes depending on size). You do not want a rolling boil.
    Strain the cloud ear and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the dressing ingredients (garlic, chili, soy sauce, black vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, salt, MSG). In a medium bowl, add the cilantro to the cooked wood ear and pour in the dressing. Toss to mix. Plate and serve immediately or chill in fridge until desired.


Make only enough wood ear you can eat the same day. Do not soak wood ear for longer than 8 hours. Rehydrated wood ear is prone to growing a surface toxin if it sits for a long time (e.g. overnight).