Not all mushrooms need to be cooked hot and fast. Braised mushrooms are equally wonderful, especially when you simmer them Chinese style like this.
The technique is called red cooking, and it’s done quite a lot in China, often with pork — I have a Chinese red cooked pork recipe here, in fact. Basically it means simmering in soy sauce plus a few other key ingredients, like ginger, until the item in question, mushrooms here, is tender and stained reddish.
Only certain mushrooms lend themselves to braising, although, fortunately, the common button mushroom is one of them. Cremini, portobello, shiitake, hen of the woods, porcini and other boletes, blewits, oysters, big chanterelles, matsutake mushrooms and the big hedgehogs, Hydnum repandum, are all good candidates.
If your mushrooms are very large, like portobellos, porcini or even large king trumpets, slice them in pieces you would want to eat with chopsticks or a fork.
I made these braised mushrooms with baby king trumpets I got from my friend Mike over at Mushroom Mike’s in Wisconsin. You can sometimes find king trumpet mushrooms in supermarkets, but always in Asian markets.
There is really only one “weird” ingredient you might want to get for this recipe, and that is Chinese black vinegar. I really like how dark and funky it is, but you can easily sub in malt vinegar. Ditto for the Shaoxing cooking wine. It adds something, but you can use sherry, too, which is easier to find.
Pretty much everything else here is in most supermarkets. If you wanted to bulk your braised mushrooms up with some meat, a good idea is to add finely ground meat to the mix when you add the mushrooms; ground beef, venison, pork or duck are all good choices.
Chinese Braised Mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 to 6 small, hot dried chiles, broken into pieces
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- 1 pound mushrooms, cleaned
- 1/2 cup stock, any kind
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/4 cup Shaoxing wine or sherry
- 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar, or malt vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- 2 teaspoons tapioca, corn or potato starch
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- In a wok or large pan, heat the lard or vegetable oil over high heat. When it just barely begins to smoke, add the ginger, garlic and chiles and stir fry for about 30 seconds. Take the pan off the heat and remove the ginger, garlic and chiles with a slotted spoon. Reserve.
- Return the pan to the heat and add the mushrooms. Stir fry them to coat in the oil, and when they just begin to release their water, add in the stock, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, vinegar and sugar, if using. Return the ginger, garlic and chiles to the pot. Mix well and simmer gently for about 20 to 30 minutes. You want the sauce to cook down.
- If, when you are ready to eat, the sauce is still thin, mix 2 teaspoons of tapioca, corn or potato starch into about 2 tablespoons of hot water and stir that into the mushrooms. Bring it to a boil and your sauce should thicken and get a pretty sheen on it. Mix in the cilantro and serve at once.