The magic of mushrooms

The Standard

5 Aug 2021

Yunnan is a hidden paradise in China known for its weather that gives one a spring-is-in-the-air feeling all year round due to its mountains. It's also a heaven of edible wild plants - especially its prized mushrooms.

The rainy season in Yunnan begins in May and results in an abundance of mushroom varieties that reach their peak in July and August, so this time of year is perfect for enjoying this flavorsome fungi.

At Chilli Fagara, chef Chan Kai-ying brings mushrooms to a new level with a menu of six that marries the characteristics of both the fungi and the 18-year-old restaurant.

The 74-year-old knows exactly what the restaurant's guests like. "Hong Kong people like the fragrance of spices, and we found that it perfectly matched the mushroom's earthy taste and chewy texture," she said.

The Yunnan mushrooms in signature spice-infused broth (HK$228) is a vegetarian twist on an iconic Sichuan poached dish. It features top-tier lion's mane, chanterelle and porcini and boasts a nutty flavor, meaty texture and crunchy bamboo pith.

The fun part of eating griddle dishes is digging among the chilies to find the "meaty" treasure. In the stir-fried Yunnan mushrooms (HK$138), the same combination of mushrooms are mixed with the restaurant's beloved spices and dried chilies for next-level indulgence.

Chan is skilled at balancing the use of spices so that the mushroom aroma is not masked, and this is reflected in her favorite dish: plump-fried cuttlefish stuffed-morel mushrooms (HK$288).

Served with the house's homemade osmanthus spicy and tangy sauce, which also has a sweet and sour hint, the stuffed mushrooms offer one bite of everything. The rich nutty aroma of the morel is enhanced by frying, and the juicy and bouncy fish matches perfectly with the sauce.

Dessert is a good option for washing down the numbing heat, but to usher in the season, try the nourishing bamboo pith and chicken slices in mushroom-based soup (HK$98). A light treat to end the feast, the soup is sweet in taste and mild in nature. It also features a classic mate in heart-warming chicken soup-tea tree mushrooms.