Fat choy (Nostoc flagelliforme), also known as faat choy, fa cai, black moss, hair moss or hair weed is a terrestrial cyanobacterium (a type of photosynthetic bacteria) that is used as a vegetable in Chinese cuisine. When dried, the product has the appearance of black hair. For that reason, its name in Chinese means "hair vegetable." When soaked, this vegetable has a very soft texture which is like very fine vermicelli.
Fat choy grows on the ground in the Gobi Desert and the Qinghai Plateau. Over-harvesting on the Mongolian steppes has furthered erosion and desertification in those areas. The Chinese government has limited its harvesting, which has caused its price to increase. This may be one reason why some commercially available fat choy has been found to be adulterated with strands of a non-cellular starchy material, with other additives and dyes. Real fat choy is dark green in color, while the counterfeit fat choy appears black.
The last two syllables of this name in Cantonese sound the same as another Cantonese saying meaning "struck it rich" (though the second syllable, coi, has a different tone) -- this is found, for example, in the Cantonese saying, "Gung1 hei2 faat3 coi4" (恭喜發財, meaning "wishing you prosperity"), which is often proclaimed during Chinese New Year. For that reason, this product is a popular ingredient in dishes used for the Chinese New Year. It is enjoyed as an alternative to cellophane noodles. It is mostly used in Cantonese cuisine and Buddhist cuisine. It is sometimes used as a hot pot ingredient.
Fat choy is also used in Vietnamese cuisine. It is called tóc tiên or tóc thiên (literally "angel's hair") in Vietnamese.
A research team from the biochemistry department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong said that international research has shown that Fat choy, besides having no nutritional value, has also been found to contain Beta-methylamino L-alanine (BMAA), a toxic amino acid that could affect the normal functions of nerve cells. Professor Chan King-ming of the team told the media that eating Fat choy could lead to degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and dementia.
There is also a study by Takenaka which shows no significant difference between laboratory rats fed Nostoc flagelliforme and the control group (Source 2).
Notes and references
- But, Paul Pui-Hay; Ling Cheng; Pui Kwan Chan; David Tai-Wai Lau; and Joyce Wing-Hin But (2002). "Nostoc flagelliforme and Faked Items Retailed in Hong Kong." Journal of Applied Phycology 14: 143-145.
- Takenaka, H., Yamaguchi, Y., Sakaki, S., Watarai, K., Tanaka, N., Hori, M., Seki, H., M. Tsuchida, M., Yamada, A., Nishimori, T., and Morinaga, T. "Safety evaluation of Nostoc flagelliforme (nostocales, cyanophyceae) as a potential food". Food and Chemical Toxicology. 1998. Volume 36, Issue 12. Pages 1073-1077.
Fri, 07 Mar 2014 10:00:00 -0800
Now they clamor for the short rib rice, bone marrow and the infamous Fat Choy burger. In fact, on one Saturday night this past year, three food writers were spotted in three different booths at the restaurant. Yes, it's become a must-visit. Here, Su ...
The Swellesley Report
Wed, 12 Feb 2014 14:52:30 -0800
WMS says Kung Hei Fat Choy (Happy Chinese New Year). By Deborah Brown | Published: February 12, 2014. Wellesley Middle School's Chinese Culture Club organized a Chinese New Year celebration to promote cultural awareness. Students were invited ...
The Record Gazette
Fri, 07 Mar 2014 06:26:15 -0800
“Kung Hei Fat Choy” or “Happy New Year” was repeated many times as guests enjoyed the big Chinese New Year celebration welcoming in the Year of the Horse in the North Club House on Feb. 15. Joan Lau and Lisa Chan have been hosting these ...
Thu, 06 Mar 2014 10:11:15 -0800
Oct. 3: Added: Andrea's, Sweets Raku; Deleted: Fat Choy. Nov. 5: Added Buddy V's Ristorante, Pizza Rock, Settebello. Dec. 5: Added: Container Park, MTO Cafe. Jan. 2: Added: B&B Burger & Beer, Crush, Jayde Fuzion; Deleted: Hops & Harvest, Press, Viva ...
Eagle & Times
Thu, 27 Feb 2014 17:18:45 -0800
With greetings of “Gung Hay Fat Choy” which means “Happy Chinese New Year!” January 31, 2014 marked the beginning of a two-week celebration with family and friends coming together sharing food, music, happiness, exchanging “Good Luck” wishes for ...
Fri, 21 Feb 2014 19:20:03 -0800
... the day — he was writing for a white audience, so he referred to Chinese as “Celestials,” made a reference to “half-breeds” and even used the word “nigger” in reference to a vegetable (he claimed the Chinese called a vegetable “fat choy” or ...
Mon, 10 Feb 2014 19:00:00 -0800
L'association Tam Tao Mon Phai fêtait le Nouvel An chinois ou fête du printemps dans la salle omnisports de Revel. D'abord, le samedi, la licorne était très remarquée sur le marché de Revel entre les étals de carottes et de salades. L'association Tam ...
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Thu, 06 Feb 2014 20:30:52 -0800
People dine at Fat Choy inside Eureka Casino at 595 E. Sahara Ave. in Las Vegas on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2013. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal). Buy Photo web1_KYARA-OCT5_092912JA_01_1.jpg. The Kushi-Mori dinner is displayed at the ...
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