Did you know that the lily is not only a beautiful flower with a delicate scent but also an edible plant?
Although there are many varieties of lilies (the lily-of-the-valley with grapes of small white bells, the asphodel, the stargazer, the calla lily, etc) only a few are grown and harvested for their edible bulbs. The two most common types are the lilium lancifolium and the white trumpet lily, or lilium brownii.
Fresh lily bulbs
You can find fresh lily bulbs in packages at the wet market and supermarket. They are grown in
Lanzhou (蘭州 làahn-jàu) in Northwest China at about 3,000 meters above sea level. The fresh onion, plump and milky, can be eaten raw in cold dishes, stir-fried or in soups (savoury or sweet).
I remember the first time I tried fresh lily bulbs in a sweet soup with lotus seeds and longan (dried dragon eye fruit). I had never tasted something similar before. The sight of creamy scales in the brown sugary liquid, the crisp, fresh and slightly starchy textures as well as the delicate and unique flavours were all new to me.
A pack of 3 fresh lily bulbs (HK$22)
Not only the frest lily bulbs are consumed but also the dried ones. The latter are also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as they are said to relieve cough and quite a few other ailments.
Fresh daylily buds and dried daylily stems are also edible but come from another variety: the daylily or Hemerocallis fulva.
Last year at about the same period I found fresh daylily buds at the wet market and bought a small batch. I had never tasted this plant before and adapted a recipe from Northern China which includes bamboo shoots, black fungus and pork. I wanted to buy more to try again my recipe but could not find some. It makes me think that it is time to check if the stall on Argyle Street where I purchased them last year has some. They should be in season now. As for the dried daylily stems they are more popular. Every year I buy some to make Buddha's Delight before Chinese New Year for my family to enjoy during the festivities.
Silk gourd with lily bulbs, dried bean curd and black fungus stir-fry
- 300 g angled luffa / silk gourd
- 3 pieces dried bean curd
- 6 water chestnuts
- 10 g black fungus (see photos below)
- 3 fresh lily bulbs
- A few slices of carrot
- 4 cooked dried Chinese mushrooms
- 2 slices ginger
- 1/2 large onion
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp rice wine
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- ½ tsp sugar
- A pinch of ground black pepper
- ½ tsp cornstarch
- 1tbsp water
- ¼ tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
- Peel and slice the angled luffa. Soak in cold water.
- Clean and slice the bean curd. Peel, rinse and slice the water chestnuts.
- Rinse, clean and remove the petals from the bulbs.
- Soak the black fungus in cold water until softened. Trim and blanch in the boiling water together with the sliced carrots. Refresh and cut the black fungus into pieces.
- Slice the mushrooms. Shred the ginger and slice the onion.
- In a large frying pan heat oil and add salt. Stir in the ginger, onion, black fungus, angled luffa, and water chestnuts to stir-fry.
- Add the mushrooms, carrots, lily bulbs and dried bean curd pieces.
- Sizzle in the wine. Pour in the seasoning and stir well.
- Add in the gravy mix to thicken the sauce.
- Add in the sesame oil; toss evenly and transfer to a dish.
Black fungus or hâk-muhk-yíh in Cantonese ( 黑木耳,means: black- wood - ear) also called cloud ear (雲耳 wàhn-yíh) will expand many times once soaked in water, as shown on the photos below: