Mushrooms: They’re weird. They look gross, and when they’re wet they look all slimy. Ew, nasty.
It’s no wonder that it took me moving all the way across the world to finally appreciate them. When I was 21 in America, I for some reason only appreciated and knew how to prepare some green vegetables, eggplant, and tomatoes. The Chinese have manipulated my tastebuds, resulting in me being able to get down on alllllll da veg.
There’s at least 10 new kinds of ‘shrooms I’ve tripped on…I mean, that I’ve eaten since I moved to China. One of my favorites being the fanned-out, drably grey oyster mushroom.
The first time I ate them was when I was in Hohhot at one of the thousands of BBQ’s that line the streets. The mushrooms were doused heavily in cumin, chili power, and traditional shāokǎo (烧烤, barbecue) spices. When grilled long enough, the oyster mushrooms come out crispy on the edges with a meaty bite.
Because I’ve yet to remember how to say “well done” in Chinese, the mushrooms often lack the consistent crisp one would hope for, depending how busy the BBQ is that night.
One of my friends here in BJ has an equal appreciation towards unique and cultural flavors. The only thing that separates our beliefs is that he is a vegan. Ima let dis one slide.
While traveling in Cape Town last year, he brought me back this damn fine gift:
Cape Malay. A traditional South African curry with Cajun spices. I’ve been reluctant to actually make a curry with it, for what reason, I’m unsure of. I don’t know when I’ll be able to get my hands on it again, so I wanted to use it for the perfect occasion.
Then! I remembered a while ago I saw a suuuuuuper simple chicken marinade that was equal parts Tabasco, regular yellow curry powder, and olive oil.
It sounded fucking bomb, but when I tried it out, it actually was really boring.
I tweaked the original recipe, tossed it all over these ‘shrooms, baked them lil’ bitches, and was left with a side dish that doubled as a snack, that tripled as a flavor porty, that quadrupled as a dance party where Bowie was the DJ and Prince was choreographing all the guests.
I swear these mushrooms weren’t magic.
Since most of us don’t have easy access to Cape Malay, you can sub regular curry powder, but I’d suggest upping the ante of my suggested additions*.
CRIPSY BAKED OYSTER MUSHROOMS WITH TABASCO AND CURRY
serves 2, 40-45 minutes
- 1 lb (500g) oyster mushrooms (I know this sounds like a lot, but once you’ve cut the mushrooms off the stem and they’ve released their water while baking, they’ll reduce by more than half)
- 2 tablespoons Cape Malay Curry or regular yellow curry powder
- 1-2 tablespoons Tabasco (I recommend 2 if you’re well-adapted to eating spicy food)
- 2 tablespoons fat
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Preheat your oven to to 400F (204C).
- Line a baking tray with foil, and stack a wire rack on top of that. Your mushrooms will bake on the rack. As mentioned a lot of liquid will release. Let it fall on the tray.
- Remove the mushrooms from their stem, wash them, and place them in a large bowl for tossing.
- Combine the curry, Tabasco, oil, salt, and garlic powder in a bowl.
- Drizzle it over the mushrooms, making sure they’re evenly covered.
- Arrange them on the wire rack, try not to let them overlap so they can crisp up evenly
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, turning halfway through, if desired.
- Eat as a side or snack!
*Notes: if you end up having to use regular curry, try experimenting with coriander seeds, turmeric, cumin seeds, ginger, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek, cinnamon, onion, cloves, black pepper, and bay leaves. These are the ingredients that make up Cape Malay. Here’s a recipe for creating your own mixture.
So did you make ‘em? The meaty texture of these mushrooms rule. What other flavors are you experimenting with? Lemme know, Joe.