Snow fungus, known formally as Tremella fuciformis and informally by a number of names including silver tree ear, cloud ear, and shirokikurage, is a type of jelly fungus that is widely distributed in Asia and parts of North America. Though it is not overwhelmingly popular in Western cuisine, but it plays a role in Asian cuisine and medicine, where it is prized for immune boosting and cancer fighting properties. Like other types of jelly fungus, this fungus has a peculiar appearance and texture which can be unpleasant to people who are not accustomed to it.
In the wild, snow fungus looks like a cluster of jelly clinging to branches and trunks of mostly hardwood trees. It could also be mistaken for snow from a distance, which is the likely origin of the name. The wide lobed fungus tends to tremble because of its jelly-like consistency, and can be found in moist forests throughout the fall. It is often found in proximity to other jelly fungi such as wood ear mushrooms and witch's butter.
In texture, the snow fungus is slightly crunchy while retaining a rubbery resiliency. The crunchiness of the fungus will be retained through the cooking process, and it is frequently added to stir fries and similar dishes to add textural diversity. In flavor, this ingredient is relatively bland and unobjectionable, although it takes on other flavors very well. Because of the strange texture, some consumers are not very fond of it: serve it at dinners with a variety of options or experimental diners unless you know your guests are accustomed to it.
Snow fungus can be found fresh as specialty markets when it is in season, and should be of a firm although trembling consistency. Store it in a paper bag in the fridge for up to one week before use. Avoid any pieces that are discolored or slimy to the touch. This ingredient can also be found canned and dried in Asian markets. The canned version should be drained and rinsed before use, while dried mushrooms can be rehydrated in boiling water. Some stores also sell snow fungus in the form of a nutritional supplement.
Thre are a wide variety of ways to use snow fungus. The mushroom is most commonly used in stir fries, and you may want to experiment by adding a sample to your next Chinese meal. However, it can also be sauteed in butter like many other mushrooms, added to omelets, or thrown into stuffing. In addition, it can make an intriguing dessert offering after being soaked in a sweet flavored syrup of your choice overnight.