Nah, I eat monkey heads sans bloodshed. Here are the heads which I actually eat and love a lot...
When my mum first bought these "heads" and cook them into curry, I was dismayed. Had she just bought some artificial meat substitute such as mock chicken, which were laden with chemicals and possibly animal-derived ingredients? Mum reassured me that they were all-natural and healthier than meat substitutes. I was suspicious, yet at the same time my adventurous side got the better of me and compelled me to give these "heads" a try.
THEY TASTE FREAKISHLY LIKE CHICKEN!
Yes, I am serious here. They taste like chicken. Despite being a vegetarian for almost a year now, I can still remember vividly how boiled chicken tastes like, since I used to eat that dish very often. They were chewy and had a velvety texture. Of course, I don't know how to describe the chicken since chicken are always eaten cooked. Duh.
Besides, chicken was my favourite meat. Chicken curry, chicken chop, chicken satay... You just name it. Not anymore, everything are in the past, and I am glad for giving up chicken along with other meats last year.
Still, I cannot help but introducing my newfound favourite food, which is the monkey head MUSHROOM as shown in the second picture. Trust me, they look just like mock meat and have that chewy texture but they are completely made from water, soil, air and nutrients.
Hericium erinaceus is the scientific name for this culinary jewel, and the name "Monkey Head mushroom" is actually the direct translation from its Chinese name "hou tou gu". (Sorry because I cannot type in Chinese using this laptop. ) In English, it is known as "Lion's Mane mushroom" or "Hedgehog Mushroom". It is known as 'Nature's Nutrient for the Neurons' on account of its ability to stimulate the production of nerve growth factor (NGF), which are important in the differentiation and survival of nerve cell populations in the central and peripheral nervous system. Low levels of NGF have been shown to be linked to early stages of both alzheimers disease and dementia.
Neurological functions aside, NGF plays a wide role in regulating homeostasis in the body. Too little NGF results in cardiovascular diseases and metabolic syndromes, including Type 2 Diabetes. It has been shown to accelerate wound healing and there is also evidence that it could be useful in the treatment of skin and corneal ulcers. Animal studies have shown NGF to have a profound effect on airway inflammation and asthma-related symptoms with increased NGF levels observed in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and serum from patients with asthma.
In fact, I only know about the health benefits of this natural mock meat today as I am writing this post, as I am reading up on it while typing my post at the same time. Otherwise, I could not care less about the health virtues of this mushroom because it is really awesome and versatile! It can be added into curries as mock mutton, into vegetable stir-fries, cooked into mushroom stew in lieu of the cholesterol-loaded and fatty pork stew, or just being added into clear vegetable soups. I had the clear vegetable soup with monkey-head mushrooms just now for lunch and it indeed tasted like boiled chicken without the skin! In fact, the soup had just corns, tomatoes, the mushrooms, carrots and a pinch of salt for flavouring. Astonishing, right?
I did not take the picture of the food though. I will face the music if mum catches me doing so!
The sky is the limit when it comes to enjoying such mushrooms. I don't think they work in burgers, but I will love to try grilling them like satay if there is the chance, or maybe revamp many of my old favourites, such as ginger chicken, lor mai kai (a Hong Kong bowl-shaped glutinous rice snack with chicken, Chinese mushroom and Chinese sausages) or in in creamy pasta, vegan style.
I am glad that my family loves the dishes made with these little monkey-head mushrooms as they resemble the taste of meat. To me, it is a good ingredient to be introduced into dishes so that people can enjoy "meat", cruelty-free style.
Of course, when it comes to cruelty-free meat dishes, mushrooms work like magic. Monkey-head mushrooms aside, other mushrooms such as portobello mushrooms, Shiitake mushrooms and "chicken-meat mushrooms" work wonders too. I cannot find a picture for "chicken-meat mushrooms" though-they are white, round and quite small. Again, they taste like chicken. As for portobello and Shiitake, I think you know about them, right? Oh yea, I should mention cloud mushrooms, a.k.a. oyster mushrooms, which, when steamed, can literally pass off as steamed fish minus the bones, fishy odour and mercury. For those who love abalones but are afraid of the hefty price tag, you have abalone mushrooms which are full-flavoured and hearty, unlike the bland real abalones which rely on the other ingredients such as salt and peppercorns for flavour. Now that's a win!
I seriously want this portobello burger but the portobello mushrooms are too expensive :(
These explain why I am a mushroom mania. Tee hee :P
In the future, when anyone around you requests for a chicken dish or any other meaty dishes, serve them mushrooms instead to save our animal friends, eliminate the hassle in preparing meat and give them some extra nutrients and antioxidants minus the hormones. They will come back for more. Don't tell them the secret unless if they ask for it, promise me. (Crosses pinky finger with all of you virtually)
Google Images (for all the pictures)