This recipe is based on Chinese vegetarian mushroom dishes. Traditional Chinese vegetarian fare for religious Buddhists includes no garlic or green onions or other members of the onion family, chilies, eggs or any dairy products. It can be quite bland, oily food — yet very imaginative, often featuring bean curd and wheat gluten products for protein. Many of the most famous preparations are those made to resemble meat, fish and poultry, in appearance as well as taste (the former being easier to achieve than the latter). Mushrooms are used extensively in this type of cooking and certain areas of China, like Yunnan province in the southwest, are famous for their many varieties of wild mushrooms. Use the mushrooms listed here or a combination of your own making.
In this recipe, I have strayed from the Buddhist path and included green onions and, optionally, a little oyster sauce for flavoring. I have included a recipe for traditional Chinese vegetable stock, although non-vegetarians may wish to use chicken stock.
Yield: Serves 6
18 dried black mushrooms (shiitake)
1 oz (25 g) dried wood ear fungus
12 oz (375 g) white or cremini mushrooms
1/3 cup (75 ml) peanut oil or vegetable oil
2 tbsp (25 ml) Chinese rice wine or dry sherry or sake
1 tbsp (15 ml) soya sauce
¼ tsp (1 ml) salt
1 cup (250 ml) sliced bamboo shoots
½ cup (125 ml) sliced carrots
¾ tsp (4 ml) granulated sugar
18 oz (550 g) dried wheat noodles or 2 lbs (1 kg) fresh noodles
2 tbsp (25 ml) chopped green onions
1 tsp (5 ml) minced ginger root
¼ tsp (1 ml) white pepper
1 cup (250 ml) vegetable stock or chicken stock
2 tsp (10 ml) oyster sauce
2 tsp (10 ml) cornstarch dissolved in 2 tsp (10 ml) stock or water
8 oz (250 g) oyster mushrooms, any tough stems removed
1 package enoki mushrooms, tough ends removed
2 tbsp (25 ml) toasted pine nuts
¼ tsp (1 ml) sesame oil
1. Rinse black mushrooms in cold water; soak in water to cover, 15 minutes or until soft. Drain, reserving soaking liquid; remove and discard stems. Pour 3 cups (750 ml) boiling water over dried wood-ear fungus; when cool, drain, remove stems and cut into julienne. Cut white or cremini mushrooms into halves or quarters or into thick slices.
2. In a wok or large frying pan, heat 4 tsp (20 ml) of the oil over medium-high heat; cook shiitake mushrooms until golden on both sides. Stir in ½ cup (125 ml) of shiitake soaking liquid, 1 tbsp (15 ml) of the rice wine and soya sauce; cook until liquid evaporates. Transfer to a bowl. Heat 1 tbsp (15 ml) oil; cook white or cremini mushrooms until golden. Stir in remaining rice wine and salt; cook until liquid evaporates. Add to shiitake mushrooms. Heat 1 tbsp (15 ml) oil; cook bamboo shoots and carrots until edges begin to brown. Stir in sugar; cook, stirring constantly, until golden. Add to shiitake and cremini mushrooms.
3. In a large pot of boiling water, cook noodles until tender; drain. Meanwhile, in a wok, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp (15 ml) of the green onion and the ginger; cook 10 seconds. Stir in julienned wood-ear fungus and white pepper; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Stir in remaining shiitake soaking liquid up to ½ cup (125 ml) and stock; bring to a boil and cook until reduced by one-third. Stir in oyster mushrooms and mushroom-vegetable mixture; cook until oyster mushrooms soften. Stir in oyster sauce and cornstarch mixture; cook until thickened. Stir in remaining green onions, enoki mushrooms, pine nuts and sesame oil. Serve over cooked noodles.
For the best taste, allow each kind of mushroom to remain distinct; use the common Chinese technique of cooking individual ingredients separately then combining them.
The flavor of the pine nuts will be enhanced greatly by lightly toasting them in a dry pan over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes.