Fat choy

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Fat choy
Nostoc flagelliforme microscope.jpg
Nostoc flagelliforme under a microscope
Scientific classification
Domain: Bacteria
Phylum: Cyanobacteria
Class: see [1]
Order: Nostocales
Family: Nostocaceae
Genus: Nostoc
Species: N. flagelliforme
Binomial name
Nostoc flagelliforme
Harv. ex Molinari, Calvo-Pérez & Guiry, 2016
Fat choy
Faat choy.jpg
Traditional Chinese髮菜
Simplified Chinese发菜
Literal meaning"hair vegetable"
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese頭毛菜

Fat choy (Chinese: 髮菜; Nostoc flagelliforme) 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, fat choy 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.[2][3] Real fat choy is dark green in color, while the counterfeit fat choy appears black.[2]

Chinese culture[edit]

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.[citation needed] It is mostly used in Cantonese cuisine and Buddhist cuisine. It is sometimes used as a hot pot ingredient.

Vietnamese culture[edit]

Fat choy is also used in Vietnamese cuisine. It is called tóc tiên or tóc thiêng (literally "angel's hair") in Vietnamese.

Health effects[edit]

No significant difference between laboratory rats fed Nostoc flagelliforme and the control group was found in a study by Takenaka and coworkers.[4]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Oren, A. (1 September 2004). "A proposal for further integration of the cyanobacteria under the Bacteriological Code". International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. 54 (5): 1895–1902. doi:10.1099/ijs.0.03008-0. ISSN 1466-5026. PMID 15388760. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  2. ^ a b "The standard.com.hk". Archived from the original on November 22, 2007. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  3. ^ Waynesword
  4. ^ Takenaka 1998.


External links[edit]