Black Fungus Salad at the Harmony Restaurant in Ottawa
I am sorry I didn’t get to visit the Harmony Restaurant in Ottawa more often when I traveled to the capital on a regular basis. They seem to have gone a little bit more mainstream as far as their menu goes these days, but I certainly enjoyed a lot of interesting dishes there over a number of visits. Their Husband and Wife Lung Slices were certainly a novelty for me, but their Black Fungus Salad was absolutely delicious.
The dish you see pictured above was referred to on the menu as ‘Black Mushroom and Peanut in Vinegar’. Usually, ‘Black Mushroom’ means Chinese Black Mushrooms, or Shiitake, but this was not what was used here. The accompanying Chinese text, reading老醋木耳花生 (lǎocù mù’ěr huāshēng), was a bit more explanatory.
The Chinese description specifies that ‘Wood Ear’, one of the two main varieties of black fungus, is used, while the vinegar was more particularly identified as ‘old vinegar’, which usually means one of the mild Black Chinese Vinegars that are not easily substituted with western varieties. The last two characters indicate the Peanuts are supposed to be part of the dish.
It was rather unfortunate, but the waitress who brought me the dish, apologetically informed me that the restaurant was out of peanuts currently and, accordingly these were absent in the dish I received. What she did bring me, however, was a very generous helping of rehydrated wood-ears along with chunks of raw white onion and a good amount of coarsely chopped garlic in a sauce that was chiefly black vinegar, but also contained sesame oil and was sweetened with a little sugar.
I am not sure if the onion chunks were a regular feature, or if they were added on this occasion as a replacement for the peanuts, but they worked really well and the result over all was delicious, with the unique texture of the wood ears making the dish something both interesting and special. In any event, despite the disappointing lack of peanuts, I though this an excellent dish.