Wood ear mushrooms are used most commonly in Chinese cooking. Find the mushrooms fresh or dried in Asian markets. The fungus gets its name from the shape which resembles an ear. The back side of the mushroom has an almost-velvet look and feel.
The fresh wood ear mushrooms shown are beautiful dark brown but almost translucent. You can also find these dried. These mushrooms are commonly used in soups or in a stir-fry; sometimes combined with tiger lily buds. The fresh mushroom has a slightly crunchy textured but almost flavorless. The mushrooms will absorb flavors from the other ingredients in the recipe and adds texture.
These mushrooms are related to the wood ear but they are a different variety. They can be used interchangeably and you can easily substitute the dried, reconstituted mushrooms for fresh. The fresh mushrooms are hard to find in the U.S.