A week or so before the Dragon Boast Festival, lychee fans begin to hit fruit and vegetable stalls in earnest for the lychee tree fungi.
Also called edible fungi, these are very rare in the wild and are not easily cultivated.
I was lucky enough to have some when I visited Zhengcheng in southern Guangdong province, home to a lychee tree forest.
Known by its scientific name macrolepiota albuminosa (雞樅菌), edible fungi thrive in areas with an abundance of lychee trees.
In Lingnan, an area south of China’s Nan Mountains teeming with lychee trees, it’s called the king of fungi.
They make their debut every year 10 days or so during the Dragon Boat Festival which takes place on the fifth day of the fifth Lunar month.
An expert forager told me that he would begin the search for the rare mushroom before daybreak, so he could bag it before it opens in order to lock in its taste.
Heavy rainfall this year reduced supply, driving prices up to 300 yuan (US$44.90) per catty.
Still, my friend Bo Gor incredibly collected eight catties of the fungi and made them into three tantalizing dishes.
The first was capon soup with winter melon — and the fungi, of course.
No seasoning was needed as the fungi lent its unique flavor to the soup.
The next dish was steamed fungi, with a dash of salt and oil added to bring out the fungi essence.
Then there was steamed firstborn egg with fungi — silky, sweet and healthy.
The steamed rice noodle rolls and roasted pork ribs with fermented black beans complemented the fungi dishes.
We ended our feast with the freshest harvest of lychee fruit.
We each grabbed two big boxes to bring back as souvenirs.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 2.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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