White fungus is a type of fungi composed of many tightly clustered florets that are, as its name suggests, white in colour tinged with a pale shade of yellow. The florets of the fungus have a firm jelly-like texture and branch out from the hard yellow center at the core of the fungus.
The health benefits of white fungus are abundant. White fungus is a commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to moisten and clear the lungs. Through doing so, it is believed to strengthen the immune system. It is also commonly understood to help remove ‘heat’ in the body by regulating the flow of bodily fluids to reduce instances of dry skin, dry coughs or chapped lips. Furthermore, consumption of white fungus is believed to result in a good complexion due to high collagen content. Extending beyond its uses in TCM, some research shows that white fungus can lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels and help to relieve exhaustion and fatigue.
White fungus is often used in Chinese style soup desserts. It is commonly brought to a boil with rock sugar and cooked together with ingredients like pears, dried longans, gingko nuts and red dates. Before use, white fungus is always soaked in cold water for at least half an hour. The water has to be 3 to 4 times the quantity of the white fungus to ensure the fungus is submerged in water completely. Through soaking, the fungus will increase in size and turn from its opaque pale yellowish-white colour to a translucent tone. It will gradually become softer in texture. The firm core of the fungus will have to be trimmed away before the softer parts of the fungus can be torn into smaller pieces for cooking. They will then be washed clean and drained dry before they are ready for use. Apart from being used in Chinese style soup desserts, white fungus is also sometimes boiled together with porridge for added nutrition. It is also used in savoury stir-fry vegetable dishes with other vegetables like beansprouts and broccoli.
When buying good quality white fungus, look out for white fungus that are white in colour with a pale shade of yellow. This yellow tinge in colour is very important as fungus that is purely white would possibly indicate that the fungus underwent bleaching and may be contaminated by chemicals. Secondly, one must look out for the tightness of florets when selecting white fungus. The more tightly packed the florets of the fungus are, the higher the quality of the fungus.
In terms of storage of white fungus, it is essential to store white fungus in a vacuumed container so as to keep it dry and away from moisture. This will prevent it from growing mouldy or losing its firm texture. White fungus should be kept in a cool, dry area like in the refrigerator or freezer to keep it fresh.