This is a recipe for stir-fried mixed mushrooms.
I state right away that I just finished Charlotte Wood’s brilliant and brutal and devastating book, The Natural Way of Things and perhaps mushrooms and all they offer via sustenance and illumination and potential death, are on my mind.
I ate a similar dish to the one I’ve listed below (recipe by Fuchsia Dunlop), as a guest in a poor country home in China’s Zhejiang province, way back in 2001.
That home is now underwater and its inhabitants relocated somewhere else.
I believe, but am not sure because it is very difficult to pinpoint what happened to small villages flooded by China’s massive development, that this village disappeared as a result of the TanKeng dam.
It may have been another dam, but I think this was it. I’ll be sure to confirm soon.
In any case, the TanKeng dam took ten towns and eighty villages in Zhejiang province.
The people were relocated, for sure. The Chinese government ensured that their needs in relation to housing and compensation were met. I hope all those thousands of people are now thriving and enjoying modern life.
But, oh, what they must miss: community, nature, a largely outdoor life, simple pleasures, old traditions . . . I’m sure the privacy of the individual toilet is celebrated, but I reckon there might be some beauty from the old life that is very much longed for.
My dad grew up in Yallourn, Victoria, Australia – a 20th century power station town that disappeared in the 1980s – so I know a very tiny bit about the vortex that is left when you lose the place you grew up in.
There’s nothing left but a void.
The memories of your childhood are yours alone, shared with siblings and ancient friends.
As those friends and siblings pass on, you realise that this will also be your passage and that your future life is left via your production and your family/children.
But also that your past life, the life that made and defined you, is gone.
So here are my diary reflections on an experience of a small country outpost in Zhejiang in 2001. (I kept all my China diaries and I am so grateful I recorded those moments and experiences.)
A note: I was, for a few short days, a celebrity in the town described. This was because a) I was clearly not Chinese and b) because my Chinese (and Chinese-Canadian) travelling companions made certain experiences possible that would not have been otherwise. It was a phenomenal few days, and the mushrooms were a part of that. Recipe at end of post. x
“Diary, May 2001
The day we slouched into Yinchuan, backpacks slung over greasy shoulders, hands stretched out to touch the rain, we raised some smiles and caused a rabble of curiosity that blocked the midday bus from its passage down main street.
In the morning previous, on the mini-bus from the previous town, I’d watched an elderly man drop a cigarette from between his toothless gums. His eyes stayed fixed on me, as he leaned forward and then scrabbled with fingers, to pick it up.
The township of Yinchuan is decided by the flow of the river. On the south side of an ancient stone bridge lie the white-tiled homes of twentieth century China. These are contrasted against the densely forested bamboo groves and layered green of mountains on the other. On the mountain side you can see new bamboo shoots and fresh raspberries and carefully tended gardens producing cabbages and tomatoes, while fruiting trees bend under the weight of peaches, loquats and green cherries that are not yet ripe.
A seven-hundred-year-old tree shares living space with hazelnuts and pine; children scurry barefoot over tracks and forest floor and, in white-sheathed greenhouses, there is fungi, mixed from wood and water, growing surely.”
Stir-Fried Mixed Mushrooms (chao za jun) via Fuchsia Dunlop from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook
according to Fuchsia, you can use a variety of mushrooms in this dish, including buttons, fields, oysters, enoki, shiitake and others of your selection;
500g mixed mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, sliced
a knob fresh ginger, sliced
dried chilli flakes
4 TBSP stock
garnish (spring onion)
1. Slice and dice mushrooms
2. Slice bacon into squares
3. Wok-fry bacon squares until changing colour.
4. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry until aromatic,
5. Scatter chilli flakes and add mushrooms. Stir-fry for a few minutes until cooked. Add stock and salt. Stir until a happy consistency is reached. Season with S&P as needed and garnish with spring onions to serve.