As part of our mushroom-growing workshop, we’re treated to a fungus-forward gourmet dinner. Curious as to our meal’s preparation, I slip into the makeshift kitchen to niele [nose around]. I see a chef in a black coat and jeans making dumplings. He looks up and smiles.
“Hi! I’m Nicot Andrianarisandy,” he says, sounding out the longest name I have ever heard.
I roll his name around on my tongue for a minute, then ask where he is from.
“Madagascar,” he says, then gives me a brief portrait of his homeland: it’s the fourth largest island in the world, is as big as California, and is approximately 9,000 miles away from Hawai‘i off the coast of South Africa. Andrianarisandy also tells me he discovered his love of cooking while working in restaurants as a college student. Today, he has a private catering company here on Maui called Hawaiian Chef’s Table.
I watch as he preps the dumplings for our dinner. “I’m using wood ear mushrooms so you can see how to incorporate them into different recipes,” he explains as he dices up some fungus.
I am familiar with this variety; it grows near my home and I forage for it regularly. Auricularia auricula — aka wood ear, cloud ear, jelly, or black mushrooms — have been cultivated in China since around 600 A.D. Research indicates that they contain several beneficial bioactive compounds, and that they are anti-viral, anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory.
Excited to try his creations, I rejoin my fellow mushroom freaks outside. Soon enough, dinner is served, and we each grab a plate and sit on the lawn to enjoy our meals. I bite into my dumpling and taste — heaven. Wood ear mushrooms immediately become a must-have staple for my kitchen.
Try Andrianarisandy’s recipe for shrimp and wood ear dumplings and become a fan of the fungus!
Shrimp and Wood Ear Mushroom Dumplings Recipe
Prep time: 1 hour | Yield: 40 dumplings
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 (1-ounce) package dried, shredded wood ear mushrooms
- thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 40 wonton wrappers
- Dipping Sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- chili pepper flakes, to taste
Directions: Soak mushrooms in water for 30 minutes, or overnight. Drain, then rough chop into ¼-inch pieces. Place shrimp in a food processor and puree, or hand chop until it reaches a paste-like consistency. In a bowl, combine shrimp, ginger, mushrooms and soy sauce. Scoop ½ teaspoon of mixture into each wonton wrapper. Dampen wrapper edges and fold over into a triangle. Press edges together firmly all around. Steam dumplings 8 minutes in a bamboo steamer, fry in a skillet until golden, or place in hot broth and simmer until tender. Add dipping sauce ingredients to a bowl and whisk to combine. Serve dumplings with sauce on the side.