This recipe takes the style of the Chinese restaurant favourite and gives it a foraged twist. It’s a tasty way to make use of this underrated bracket fungus — and it’s also suitable for vegans.
Giant Polypore (Meripilus giganteus), also known as Blackening Polypore, is a reasonably common fungus typically found at the base of Beech and Oak trees. It is not as coveted by foragers as Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) it makes just as good, if not better, eating if foraged while still young.
Giant polypore has probably become unfairly maligned as an edible bracket for two reasons: its deep black staining when torn or cooked and foragers making the mistake of harvesting it when it has become too tough and fibrous.
However, its texture lends really well to “shredding” into soft fibres reminiscent of pulled pork. Serving it in tacos in a barbecue sauce is another creative use for this mushroom.
But, we think it makes a great substitute for crispy duck (albeit without the outer crispiness) and texturally it creates a surprisingly authentic alternative, which also takes on the flavours of honey, five spice and soy well.As its name indicates, Giant Polypore is a big mushroom, meaning it is easy to take enough for a meal whilst leaving a healthy two thirds behind for wildlife.
It does not have any poisonous lookalikes in the UK. It is most likely to be confused with the smaller Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa), which although edible will not give the same flavour or shredded texture.
As with many mushrooms, Giant Polypore can cause a small number of people to experience gastric upset after eating it. Always do a small tolerance test before eating a larger amount. This mushroom must be cooked before eating.
This recipe serves approximate four, allowing for two generous pancakes each.
For the shredded Giant Polypore:
Four large handfuls of young Giant polypore
Drizzle of honey (or vegan alternative)
Pinch of Chinese five spice
Soy sauce to taste
Drizzle of olive oil for cooking
Using your fingers and/or a small knife, tear the polypore into strips, retaining the soft, easy-to-tear flesh and discarding any areas of the mushroom that have started to become hard and fibrous. You may want to use gloves for this as polypore will stain your fingers black.
Heat some oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the polypore.
Season with a drizzle of honey/honey alternative, soy sauce and five spice.
All the polypore will turn black. Cook thoroughly until heated all the way through.
For the plum sauce (Note: this makes approx 750g)
1kg of ripe damsons or plums (or a mix of both) pitted and chopped
1 diced onion
100 ml apple cider vinegar
150g light muscovado sugar
50ml soy sauce
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1tsp Chinese five spice
2tbsp honey (or vegan alternative)
Add all ingredients except the five spice into a saucepan and bring to the boil.
Simmer uncovered for 30mins and then puree using a stick blender.
Add the Chinese five spice and simmer for another 20mins or so until thickened.
Can into hot, sterlised jam jars
For the pancakes
150g plain flour
125ml boiling water
Oil for cooking
Put the flour, water and salt in a bowl and mix to make a dough. Knead for five mins
Form into eight small balls and roll out as thinly as possible
Lightly coat a frying pan with oil and place on a medium heat. Cook each pancake for around 20sec each side.
Slice spring onions and cucumber into fine batons
Assemble the pancake by spreading some plum sauce before adding the pulled polypore, spring onions and cucumber and then roll up
Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!