Chaga is one of the weirdest mushrooms you may ever see. A fungal parasite found on birch trees, Chaga is a hardened, blackened, crusty formation that looks like a bursting tumor. – Paul Stamets, Fungi Perfecti founder and president
I was nodding at my computer yesterday afternoon like I do most days around two. The obvious result of too many hours staring at a screen. I walked into our large, communal kitchen to grab a cup of coffee and stretch my legs. I bumped into John, our leader and the force behind Foods in Season, and started talking food as we so often do. He offered a cup of chaga he was brewing and proceeded to tell me about some braised chicken he prepared the night before. He marinated them in chaga tea overnight and it gave a very pleasant pheasant-like taste. I was intrigued. I only heard of chaga mushrooms and was familiar with their healthy beneficial qualities. No one ever talked about using them in a culinary sense.
Chaga Mushrooms are known as the ‘gift of God’ or ‘mushroom of immortality’ by Siberians because of their healthful benefits. They have been used as an herbal remedy for well over 5,300 years. Like most modern medicines derived from nature, chagas are wild foraged from birch trees in Alaska and other Northern extremes. Their health benefits are staggering, fueling scientific claims they fight cancers and a host of other medical aliments. The Russians have probably done the most research on chaga mushrooms. I copied the next small section from the link above and implore you to examine further. In Russia, chaga was approved for public use against cancer by the Medical Academy of Science in Moscow in 1955. Therefore Russian scientists are very confident about the healing properties of chaga, because numerous studies and clinical trials have been conducted in this country since then.
According to the Russian Medical Academy, chaga mushrooms:
• have a positive effect against lung and liver cancer
• calm the nervous system
• are proven to positively affect various stomach diseases and ulcers
• stimulate the immune system
• help to reduce blood sugar and fight diabetes
To learn more about how mushrooms can save our lives, restore our ecosystems and transform other worlds listen to Paul Stamets’ Ted Talk.
I am a foodie and by consequence am more interested in the edible aspects of Chaga than solely the healthful ones. Admittedly, I now drink chaga tea everyday. I decided to take John’s marinated chicken one step further and make a Chaga Ramen based on a winter ramen recipe I obtained from a Japanese chef friend.
- 2 cups cold chaga tea
- 3.5 pound organic chicken
- 1.5 chaga tea leftover from marinade
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 4 cups basic dashi broth
- ½ cup soy sauce or Bragg's
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 5 fat garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 2 inch section ginger root, peeled and chopped fine
- ½ pound ground pork
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1 teaspoon chili paste (or more to taste)
- 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup fresh cabbage, shredded
- 1 sweet onion, peeled and sliced thin
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced using a vegetable peeler to cut ribbons
- ½ pound buckwheat noodles, available premade in Asian grocery stores
- Cut chicken legs and thighs off. Cut breast off of carcass and marinate everything overnight in chaga.
- Save the carcass to make your chicken stock using this recipe.
- Heat an oven proof saute pan. Add a little vegetable oil. Put chicken in skin side down.
- Season with sea salt and black pepper.
- Put in 425 degree oven and roast 30 minutes, or until chicken is done. Reserve.
- I noticed with chaga more sugars come out of the chicken and it caramelizes beautifully. The skin will be a gorgeous mahogany color, crispy and full of a deeper chicken flavor.
- The next day, mix chaga marinade, chicken stock, dashi and soy together.
- Bring to a boil, remove from heat and reserve.
- Heat vegetable oil in a large pot. Add garlic and ginger and cook stirring often.
- When it starts to lightly brown add ground pork and cook till done, about five minutes.
- Add hoisin sauce and chili paste and reserve.
- Saute shiitake mushrooms, cabbage, onion and carrots.
- Add pork and soup base and bring to a boil.
- Cook buckwheat noodles in a pot of salted water.
- To serve, put noodles in a big bowl and ladle soup over.
- Garnish bowl with a piece of roasted chaga chicken.