During our last winter evening in Lijiang this year, my family ventured into a coffee bar in the olden city. Dim lights, acoustic guitar and just enough warmth to be comfortable. We ordered something titled “Eternal Beauty Tea” in English and after a long wait, a very unassuming tea pot was delivered to our table.
The moment I tasted it, I immediately opened the lid of the pot. There it was: a melody of snow white fungus, boiled pears, dates and various herbs.
Not a single tea leaf.
It’s not tea. It’s a dessert soup with great warming and throat soothing qualities. One sip and you’ll taste the spiced blend of poached pear mixed with the sweetness of white fungus soaked in rock sugar.
The dates add a dimension of tartness but the tastes are all blended so well that it trumps all other winter drinks. It’s sweet and terribly addicting.
Here’s the recipe:
Two pears (I used Bosc, but any would do)
Three clumps of white fungus
1/4 cup of dried lotus seeds
One tablespoon of rock sugar (adjust sweetness to your liking)
Five cups of water
1. Soak the white fungus and dried lotus seeds in hot water for 20 minutes.
2. Cut the pears into cubes
3. Separate the white fungus into smaller pieces. Toss out any yellowing parts or hard sections.
3. Boil water in a slow cooker
4. Once water is boiling, add pears, then white fungus. Add lotus seeds and turn the cooker to high.
5. Wait 30 minutes then add dates.
6. Wait another hour and add sugar to your liking.
You want to soak the white fungus and dried lotus seeds in hot water first because when you buy them, they’re dehydrated. The hot water will allow the fungus and seeds to soften and open up.
This dessert soup takes a while to make because you want the white fungus to “烂,” which means, to decompose and get softer. A slow cooker is ideal but if you don’t have one, you can do this all over a fire.
Don’t add the dates in too early or else the soup will become too sour. The key is to get it to a mild sweetness.
Everything in this dessert soup is edible. So while others prefer just to drink the soup, you can eat the all the ingredients. I personally love munching on the fungus.