Category Archives: Mushroom

Eringi (King Oyster Mushroom/Saesongi) & Teriyaki Sauce

eringiterEringi エリンギ (king trumpet, king oyster or saesongi) is my favourite Asian mushroom. I love its meaty texture, its delicate flavours and its incredible versatility. It is good in Thai and Indian curries, in Japanese chawan mushi (savoury egg custard) and okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake), but it is equally delicious simply grilled and served with teriyaki sauce. This easy method showcases perfectly all the eringi’s qualities and I strongly advise it all those who plan to cook this mushroom for the first time.

Together with the more famous oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) eringi belongs to the Pleurotus genus, but there is no ressemblance between them ; actually king oyster mushroom is similar to a cute cep/penny bun/porcini but with a chubby stem and tiny cap. In the wild this mushroom grows together with the roots of Eryngium plants, hence the Latin name, but it is widely cultivated (even in Switzerland!). Even though it grows in the Middle East, Northern Africa and even Southern Europe, it is particularly appreciated in Asian countries, especially in China, Korea and Japan. Many people might hesitate before buying eringi for the first time: it doesn’t have any smell or taste when raw and it often costs more than the well-known “standard” oyster mushroom. However, once stir-fried or grilled, it develops a subtle, inimitable aroma and the famous “umami” (うま味) or 5th primary taste. Apart from the elegant and sophisticated flavour I also adore this mushroom for its meaty texture, which is always surprises my first-time eringi tasting guests.

I haven’t made any raw mushroom photographs, but if you want to see how it looks and how it grows, this program presents a Korean king oyster farm (I like the funny way they grow in pots) and shows the passion the Koreans have for this mushroom.

Here are some more eringi cooking ideas:

Eringi and Buckwheat Groats

Eringi and Buckwheat Groats

Chawan Mushi with Grilled Enringi

Chawan Mushi with Grilled Enringi

Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) with Eringi and Bacon

Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) with Eringi and Bacon

TIP: I don’t like very sweet teriyaki sauce, so mine is barely sweet (I sometimes use only sake and soy sauce, skipping even mirin). If you like a sweeter sauce, add more mirin and some sugar.

Preparation: 15 minutes

Ingredients (serves 4):

400g eringi mushrooms

neutral tasting oil

(ground pepper)

Teriyaki sauce:

2 tablespoons mirin (sweet cooking sake)

6 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or 2 if using normal soy sauce)

6 tablespoons sake

Bring mirin and sake to boil, add the soy sauce. Heat until it thickens a bit, put aside, keeping it warm.

Clean the mushrooms if they are a bit dirty and cut them into slices (lengthwise or diagonally).

You can then cut them into bite-sized pieces like I did.

Heat some oil in a non-stick pan or brush hot grill with oil.

Grill the eringi or stir-fry until they are slightly browned (about 2 minutes on each side).

Put them on a warmed plate.

If you use a grill, bring the teriyaki to boil once more, let it thicken a bit and pour over the mushrooms.

If you use a non-stick pan, pour the teriyaki on it (don’t wash the pan after having take out the mushrooms) and let it caramelise for about 1 minute.

Pour the teriyaki over the mushrooms.

Chawan Mushi (Japanese Egg Custard) with Grilled Eringi Mushrooms

chawan_geringiI have written so much about this Japanese savoury custard, I don’t really know where to start…  I am still under its charm and my recently bought steamer set increased the frequency of my chawan mushi meals. Thanks to its incredible lightness, no matter how often I have chawan mushi, I don’t need to feel guilty, count calories or cut down on fats…  I simply enjoy it, playing with its ingredients as much as I want and share with you my most successful experiments, such as this one.

Mushrooms are among my favourite chawan mushi ingredients. If I have a choice among cultivated (the only ones available in spring), I would almost always pick eringi (also called king oyster mushrooms), which have a subtle taste and a meaty texture. I must have made at least a dozen of chawan mushi with them before realising I could improve immensely both the taste and the aroma by simply grilling them beforehand. Since the first time I tried this method I have never got back to “raw” version and I’m sure all the chawan mushi and/or eringi lovers would share my view.

For those who hear about chawan mushi (茶碗蒸し) for the first time, it is a light savoury egg and stock custard, steamed in individual cups. Chawan means “tea cup” and “mushi”  stands for “steamed”. I have fallen in love with it not only because it’s delicious and extremely light at the same time, but also because it’s one of the most versatile dishes I imagine. I have never managed to source the ingredients necessary to make the traditional version, but almost all the version I make up end up delicious. I definitely prefer it made with chicken or vegetable stock rather than the Japanese dashi. (The chicken stock version was suggested by renowned Shizuo Tsuji in “The Japanese Cooking. A Simple Art”, the source of this custard recipe, so I feel entitled to say this without feeling I spoil it). 

Here are some proofs of my big passion for this fantastic dish and, as you see, for these particular cups because I love them so much I cannot make myself use any other model… (the shrimp chawan mushi photograph was taken before I bought them):

Chawan Mushi (Egg Custard) with Asparagus

Chawan Mushi (Egg Custard) with Asparagus

Shungiku no Chawan Mushi (Egg Custard with Chrysanthemum Leaves)

Shungiku no Chawan Mushi (Egg Custard with Chrysanthemum Leaves)

Chawan Mushi with Shrimp and Green Peas

Chawan Mushi with Shrimp and Green Peas

Chawan Mushi with Chicken and Thai Basil (Horapha)

Chawan Mushi with Chicken and Thai Basil (Horapha)

Chawan Mushi with Chanterelle

Chawan Mushi with Chanterelle

TIPS: You can make this custard only with eringi or reduce their amount and add some chicken breast (marinate its bite-sized pieces in sake, if possible, for ten minutes). I often do it.

As I have mentioned above, I prefer by far chicken stock rather than Japanese seaweed and dried bonito dashi, but you can use whichever you prefer. Obviously, homemade chicken stock is the best here since, contrary to more elaborate dishes, you do feel its taste clearly here.

Even though chawan mushi is easier to prepare in a steamer, Shizuo Tsuji’s suggestion to use a water bath in the oven gives excellent results, if you don’t have a steamer. (I have been preparing it for years in the oven).

If you don’t have a nearby Japanese grocery shop, individual, but high heatproof cups may be difficult to get. First, I found very good ones at IKEA (even though without lids, which can be substituted with tightly wrapped aluminium foil), but as soon as I got hold of the beautiful Japanese chawan mushi cups you see above, I stopped using the old ones. You can also use ramekins or mini-soufflé dishes, tightly covered with aluminium foil of course..

Chawan mushi can be served with a salad and bread (or rice and pickles) as a light main course, but it’s also a fantastic starter, a delicious breakfast or snack for any time of the day.

Chawan mushi can be reheated in a microwave. Depending on the ingredients it will lose more or less of its flavours, but it’s still delicious and handy as a quick snack or breakfast.

Mistuba is the traditional herb used in chawan mushi. It goes perfectly practically with every version of this dish, but if you cannot get it, use green onion, chives or any fresh herb that you like (or nothing).

A pinch of turmeric is my own invention. It doesn’t really change the taste, but it does bring a yellower hue if your eggs are pale (quite normal at this time of the year…). I haven’t added it here, but if you want to make your chawan mushi brighter, try adding turmeric.

I find taberu rayu (thick chilli and garlic oil) a perfect company for chawan mushi, so if you like hot dishes, I advise putting some of it on top (or actually any chilli oil).

Special equipment:

individual heatproof cups (at least 6 cm high, mine were 6,5 cm high, with a 7,5 cm diameter) with lids or without lids + aluminium foil to cover them

Preparation: 45 minutes

Ingredients (yields 4 cups):

1 tablespoon oil 

300 g/about1/2 lb eringi mushrooms (or 200 g eringi and 150 g chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces, then marinated in sake for ten minutes)

salt, freshly ground pepper

(a pinch of turmeric)

(mitsuba leaves or green onion or other fresh herbs)

Custard:

2 eggs

300 ml/about 10 oz homemade chicken stock or, if you are a vegetarian, a vegetable stock or dashithe Japanese stock

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sake or mirin (with mirin the custard will be slightly sweetish)

1 teaspoon soy sauce

Preheat the oven to 220°C (or prepare your steamer).

Slice the eringi. Cut bigger sliced into bite-sized pieces.

Heat the oil in a pan or on a grill and quickly grill the slices on both sides.

Season with salt and pepper.

Put aside.

If you use the hot water bath method boil a lot of water and prepare a big baking dish at least as high as the heatproof cups.

Mix the eggs very delicately in a bowl. In another bowl combine the chicken stock, salt (it depends on how salty your stock is), sake/mirin and soy sauce. Pour the stock mixture over the eggs and stir well, without beating.

Divide the mushrooms and the chicken breast equally into the four cups.

Strain the custard mixture and pour into the garnished cups (make sure there is at least 1 cm free space at the top because the custards will slightly rise).

Cover the cups with aluminium foil or the lids if you have special cups with lids.

If you use the oven, place the cups in a big baking dish. Fill the dish with hot water (not boiling). The water should arrive up till 3/4 of the cups’ height.

Put the dish in the oven and let the custards bake for 15-20 minutes until they are wobbly but already set.

If you use a steamer, steam for about 20 minutes. Check with a toothpick if the custard is set below the surface.

Garnish with fresh herbs.

Serve hot or cold with bread/toast for breakfast, with a salad for a lunch, as a snack or as a starter. If you like chilli, I find chawan mushi excellent with chili oil (especially the Japanese thick chilli oil: taberu rayu).

Open Omurice with Hot Gochujang Sauce and Mushrooms

omurice_My favourite omelette is the French-style, rugby ball-shaped fluffy one, which apparently gives a very clear idea of a professional chef’s skills. I often order it for lunch in France, but I haven’t mastered it yet, so whenever I make an omelette, it has to be the easiest flat one. The famous Japanese omurice (fried rice with an omelette) has two main versions: rice wrapped into a round thin omelette or topped with the fluffy thick one. I was glad to discover that Japanese Soul Cooking, from which I sourced my very first omurice, features the former version. Yesterday I decided to “koreanise” it a bit and replaced the customary ketchup with hot gochujang sauce. It proved such a great idea, I couldn’t wait to share it with you. Actually, I think I will never go back to the standard mild omurice!

For those who have never heard about this dish, omurice/omuraisu (オムライス) belongs to “youshoku” (洋食), Japanised Western dishes, the category which includes such dishes as korokke (croquettes).  The dish was apparently invented in Tokyo at the beginning of the XXth century and its name is a contraction of “omelette” and “rice”. As I have mentioned, it consists of two parts: “chikin rice” (cooked rice, fried with chicken, onion and carrot, then seasoned with ketchup) and the omelette, either wrapped around the rice or made into a fluffy shape and put on top. Whatever the version, the dish is served either with more ketchup on top or with a generous amount of demi-glace sauce.

The omurice where fluffy soft omelette served on top of the rice is often called “Tampopo omurice”, with reference to the legendary Japanese film “Tampopo” (if you like Japanese cuisine, you must see it, not only because of omurice!). See the beautiful Hiroyuki’s Tampopo omurice here.

I have never tasted omurice in Japan and while preparing my first homemade version I was afraid double presence of ketchup would spoil the rather promising result, but maybe because I’ve used my own homemade ketchup, I found it surprisingly good. On one hand, I was thrilled to discover another egg dish in my long collection, but at the same time this way of using leftover rice is a nice alternative for fried rice or rice-based salads I’ve been making for years.

Apart from the gochujang sauce, I have also changed the “chikin rice” ingredients, skipping the carrot and peas and replacing them with mushrooms. As you see above, I have also made too much “stuffing” to close the omelette properly (by “properly closed” I mean something like Nami’s perfect Omurice you can admire here), so I named it “open” 😉  If you want to follow the original recipe, I invite you to buy the wonderful Japanese Soul Cooking by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat.

TIPS: If you are don’t like ginger, you can skip it and the gochujang sauce will be equally good (I liked it here though; it added a nice fresh kick).

Egg dishes get cold very quickly, so I strongly advise serving omurice on a warmed plate (heated in the oven, set at lowest temperature).

Whenever using leftover cooked rice I always warm it a bit in the microwave. Thus grains are easier to separate.

Preparation: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves one):

1/4 chicken breast

3 medium or big button mushrooms (called cremini, when dark)

1 small onion or shallot

3 heaped tablespoons steamed Japanese rice

3 tablespoons chicken stock

oil

Omelette:

2 eggs

3 tablespoons of milk or cream

salt, pepper

Gochujang sauce:

2 tablespoons gochujang

1 tablespoon sake

1 tablespoon honey or syrup

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce or 1 teaspoon normal soy sauce

1 garlic clove, crushed or grated

(1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger)

toasted sesame seeds

Cut the chicken and the mushrooms into small pieces.

Slice the onion finely.

Put a bowl and a plate to warm in a cool oven (set at lowest temperature).

Fry the chicken bits, the onion and the mushrooms.

Add the rice, the gochujang sauce and the stock.

Simmer at low heat until everything is hot (make the liquids thicken if the sauce is not thick enough).

Place the rice mixture into the warm bowl and keep in the oven until needed.

Prepare the omelette mixture.

Heat some oil in a pan and fry the omelette, destroying the bubbles which will form.

When the top of the omelette is almost set, put the pan aside.

Place the omelette on the heated plate.

Place the rice stuffing at the half of the omelette. (You can also do it in the pan but I found the transferring process very difficult).

Cover it with the other half, spread some gochujang sauce on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

 

Takikomi Gohan しいたけと鶏の炊き込みご飯 (Rice steamed with shiitake and chicken)

takikomi_gSpring vegetables are nowhere to be seen yet, so the only comfort one may find in the kitchen is a new exciting dish with winter ingredients that start to become boring. The discovery of takikomi gohan has not only made me forget that mushrooms and carrots have been my staples of last months, but it has also unveiled a whole new world of potential experiments with what I see as a  lazier cousin of fried rice.

Takikomi gohan (炊き込みご飯) is a Japanese rice-based dish where all the ingredients are steamed together in a rice cooker or in a pan (for those who have mastered rice steaming in a pan). Its variations are infinite, they can change according to the season, to the fridge content, one’s preferences and for me the only limit would be not using the ingredients that become too soft during the steaming process (for example, I would never use courgette or French beans here). In short, I’m enchanted by this one-pot dish that doesn’t require much attention or efforts.

I found this recipe whole looking for new ways to use up my big stock of fresh shiitake mushrooms. I stumbled upon a video on Cooking with Dog, the food channel many of you know probably very well and didn’t look anywhere else. As always, the procedure is well explained and yields delicious results. I have made several modifications, also adjusting the amounts to a dish for two, so check the original recipe here.

TIPS: Normally you will end up with a thicker or thinner sticky, slightly burnt layer at the bottom, formed by juices, marinade liquids and rice. I must say I was scared at first that maybe my European rice-cooker reacted badly to this new method, but according to my Japanese friend A. it’s normal and for many people it’s the best part of this dish, so don’t worry if it happens to you too and enjoy the crunchy bits!

Since all the marinade juices ended up in a sticky layer at the bottom, my rice was barely seasoned, so I have added some soy sauce before serving.

You can easily make this vegetarian, skipping the chicken and adding more mushrooms.

I don’t like mushy carrots, so I have cut them into thick pieces. It’s up to you how big the pieces will be of course.

If you don’t like fresh ginger (I know some people find it soapy…) you can very well skip it. It’s far from necessary here.

Preparation: about 40 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

1 Japanese cup of rice (180ml)

200 g shiitake mushrooms

1 medium carrot

1 small chicken breast

1 piece of konbu (about 4-5 cm long)

1 teaspoon of ginger, very finely shredded

Marinade:

3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or less if you use normal soy sauce)

1 tablespoon sake

1 tablespoon mirin

30 ml dashi (Japanese stock)

fresh herbs to put on top before serving (mitsuba would be perfect, but you can add also chives or green onions)

more soy sauce

Cut up the chicken breast into bite-sized pieces (slices or chunks).

Put into the marinade.

Wash the rice until the water in the bowl is clear (I usually rinse it three-four times and soak it for 30 minutes if I have time, but I admit skipping the soaking stage quite often), put into the rice-cooker, add water as required and the konbu sheet.

Cut the carrot into bigger or smaller pieces, depending on how soft you want it to be.

Slice bigger shiitake caps and remove tough stalks (small shiitake have soft stalks, so you don’t have to remove them).

Add the shiitake, the carrots and the ginger to the marinating chicken and coat well.

Place the vegetables and the chicken mixture on top of the rice in the rice cooker, close and cook as usually.

Before serving remove the konbu, then stir well the ingredients in the rice-cooker.
Add soy sauce and serve.

Katsuobushi to Goma no Furikake (Dried Bonito and Sesame Seed Topping)

katsuo_furikake

“Sprinkling” would be the closest translation of “furikake”, though I guess “topping” sounds more correct. Furikake ふりかけ(“furikakeru” means “to sprinkle” is one of those Japanese food inventions that merits to be more known and practiced all around the world. If you don’t like eating plain white rice (I know many of us Westerners are not big fans) and you have already been bored with soy sauce as seasoning, then furikake is what you are looking for! It is a more or less complex condiment sprinkled on top of rice, bringing additional flavours and texture. A bowl of steamed rice, a fried or poached egg on top and some good quality furikake are a dream meal for me!

Every time I go to Japan, apart from the usual, well-known and loved products, I bring newly discovered food items. Last November I brought several kinds of what I believe to be high quality furikake (I was told that cheaper “supermarket” furikake tend to contain MSG and/or chemical preserving agents). I liked all of them, but one furikake particularly stood out of the whole lot. As soon as I ended the package, I decided to copy it or make something as similar as possible. I have managed to decipher only a part of the ingredients, but thanks to my Japanese friend A. and her precious help I was able to start experimenting and… I think I have succeeded! I no longer have the original furikake to compare, but my homemade version tastes almost the same and is definitely equally delicious. It is salty, sweet, slightly sour, slightly smokey, packed with umami… addictive and fantastic treat for all the katsuobushi fans!

TIPS: The below amounts should be treated as an example. Adjust the flavours to your own preferences (especially in terms of sweetness, acidity and saltiness).

Sake is not on the ingredients’ list, so you can skip it (I thought it added a very pleasant aroma).

If you don’t have shiitake powder or konbu powder, use a coffee or spice grinder to grind drired konbu and shiitake. You can also use fresh shiitake, but I’d grind them first in a food processor and dry in the oven. (Using fresh mushrooms will cut down the shelf life of the furikake.)

The ingredients on the package (and below) contain “konbu dashi” (Japanese seaweed stock). It’s very easy to prepare, but if you don’t want to bother, I guess you can use a powdered version. I have never posted a konbu dashi recipe, but luckily there is Nami and her Just One Cookbook blog!  Click here to see her very well explained konbu dashi recipe.

Preparation: about 15 minutes

Ingredients:

2 big handfuls of katsuobushi (preferably small or medium flakes)

1 heaped tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds

2 tablespoons sugar or syrup or honey

4 tablespoons konbu dashi (powdered or click here to see Nami’s konbu dashi recipe)

1 tablespoon mirin

1 tablespoon sake

1 teaspoon powdered konbu

1 teaspoon dried shiitake

3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or 1/2 of it normal soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon oil

(salt)

If you use sugar, dissolve it in dashi.

Heat the oil in a pan.

Add half of the kastuobushi and the sesame seeds.

Stir-fry on low heat until the katsuobushi start becoming golden.

Take the pan off the heat.

Add all the liquids, the syrup or the honey and the powdered shiitake and konbu.

Continue simmering the mixture until the liquids evaporate.

Taste and adjust the flavours (add more vinegar/salt/sugar or syrup).

When the mixture starts sticking to the pan, add the rest of katsuobushi.

Give it a stir and store refrigerated in a closed jar. (It should keep several weeks in the fridge or maybe even months, since there are no fresh products that might spoil).