We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Fat Choy?

By Lakshmi Sandhana
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
DelightedCooking is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At DelightedCooking, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Fat choy is a blue-green algae that looks like black human hair and is used as an ingredient in Chinese cuisine. Also known as Nostoc flagelliforme, this single-celled algae is a a type of photosynthetic bacteria that grows on land. It primarily grows on the topsoils of the Gobi desert in the Qinghai Plateau, but it can also be found in the dry regions of other countries. It resembles steel wool in appearance and is associated with good fortune in Chinese culture because it sounds quite similar to a form of greeting that wishes the other more prosperity. As a result, it is consumed in large quantities during the Chinese New Year.

It is tradition to wish friends and family "Gung Hei Fat Choy" in the New Year, which translates roughly as "strike a fortune." This has contributed to its popularity in Chinese cooking, though its nutritional value remains dubious. Used in many dishes as an alternative to noodles, fat choy needs to be soaked for quite a while before it can be cooked. Once soaked, it gains the texture of very fine vermicelli and absorbs the flavors of the liquid it is cooked in. When stored in an airtight package, it remains edible for up to a year.

This cyanobacteria is found in its natural environment as gelatinous colonies and grows very slowly. It forms a matlike growth on the topsoil, and it is critical to the health of the grasslands and dry lands it lives in because it protects them from erosion. It is one of the oldest single-celled forms of life and releases oxygen into its surroundings. Containing numerous filaments covered by sheaths that help it retain water and stay hydrated, this bacterium has adapted itself to thrive in the most inhospitable environments on very little water.

Indiscriminate harvesting of this terrestrial algae has lead to vast tracts of land becoming deserts. The severely damaged soil takes around two to three years to recover because the harvesting process destroys all surface vegetation. Some countries have taken big steps toward limiting the harvest, which has raised its price and made it a valuable commodity on the black market. The Chinese government banned the harvesting, processing, and selling of fat choy in 2000. It is still sold in shops in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other places overseas.

A difficult material to obtain, some sellers adulterate it with strands made from other starches. Original fat choy is dark green in color; adulterated strands, though, look more black. One way to determine the quality of the product is to simmer it in water. While the real thing stands up to more than half an hour of simmering in water, adulterated fat choy rapidly disintegrates. Adulterated strands also turn black when treated with iodine and can be identified quite quickly as fake under a microscope.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
DelightedCooking, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

DelightedCooking, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.