Named for its resemblance to the human ear when fresh, the term "wood ear" can refer to several different closely related species of edible fungus popular in Asian cuisines.
The most common variety of wood ear, Auricularia polytricha, is rarely available fresh, but is most often sold dried, requiring soaking before it can be used.
While it has very little flavor, the wood ear is fun to eat and is popular because if its crisp, crunchy texture, which persists even after lengthy cooking. Fans of Chinese food will recognize it as a frequent ingredient in traditional dishes, adding delightful texture and interest to many salads, soups and stir fries.
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