Thursday, April 23, 2009

So let it be known as "snow ear" (雪耳)

I sometimes think how I would contact Chinese export companies and offer my services in developing (or just using) proper English names for Chinese food ingredients. After all it's all about, in my friend Yasmin's words, "branding, branding and once again branding". Give something weird and unknown an attractive name and watch it sell like hot pies.

In the Chinese shop where I do my groceries this lovely mushroom is unpretentiously called "dried white fungus". I can vividly recall the expressions of puzzled disgust on the faces of my good friends Muhabbat and Jitte, when I suggested they add some to their shopping basket. Not many people want to eat what sounds like something you get on your toe-nail in a public bath.

A fancy name would make it so much easier to sell. You don't have to be very inventive: just translate the Chinese name directly into English: "snow ear" (雪耳). Got your attention, huh? Or "silver ear" (銀耳). Same reaction, innit?

It is mostly used for desserts. Prized for its gently crunchy texture, it hardly has any taste of its own, so I use it in some savoury dishes like spicy seafood noodles or Korean udon. In Chinese medicine it is considered a longevity booster, mainly for its blood-vessel de-clogging working.

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