Chinese New Year is always about having family come together and cook our favourite foods. That’s when we can plan some of the more complicated dishes because everyone is around and we can catch up while preparing the ingredients together.
This is a recipe that my mother-in-law shared with me. It’s a simple recipe but is a bit time-consuming because we need to prepare a lot of different components. However, the results are quite astounding as it is usual to see stuffed mushrooms served as a dainty dim sum dish and also at a spectacular wedding banquet.
We start with selecting the mushrooms. We do not want big mushrooms for this recipe, so choose dried mushrooms that are about the size of a new 50-sen coin. They will expand to slightly larger than our old 50-sen coin after soaking.
I like my mushrooms soft and tender, and there are a few ways that you can achieve that smoothness to the bite. You can simmer them over the stove for 2 hours, or you can braise them in a crock pot or slow-cooker overnight. You’ll have to watch over the pot in these two methods because you’d need to maintain about 1 cup of braising liquid at all times. I find that braising them for 30 minutes in a pressure cooker is the most hassle-free option.
I’ve also experimented preparing this dish using fresh shiitake mushrooms thinking it would be faster since I wouldn’t have to braise the mushrooms before stuffing. Somehow the flavour lacks the intensity that shiitake mushrooms attain from drying and reconstituting. You may try it out yourself, and you’ll see a noticeable difference of putting in the extra effort of using dried shiitake.
The frugal instinct in me would save the mushroom stems, which is one of the reasons why I chopped them into the mix. The other reason is that it does contribute to the flavour and texture of the dish. But you may discard the stems if you prefer. The same with the cilantro stems. I personally like the flavour and the texture that cilantro imparts to the filling, but it’s really a personal preference.
The 400 grams of pork in the recipe will yield more stuffing than you need for the mushrooms, and you can make the remainder into meatballs that can be served together with the dish. You’d need to brown the meatballs first before frying the stuffed mushroom because the stuffing can fall off the mushrooms if you toss them around too much. I suggest browning in batches then combining them for the final steaming with the gravy.
I used a bottled scallop sauce to enhance the flavour of the gravy, and I was quite impressed that there are chunks of scallops in the sauce itself. Do check the saltiness of the sauce before adding to your gravy because every brand would be variedly seasoned.
- 20 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 4 tablespoons cooking oil
- 400g ground pork
- 150g small prawns
- 3 fresh or canned water chestnuts, finely chopped
- 1 sprig cilantro, keep leaves whole and chop stems finely
- ½ tablespoon light soy sauce
- ½ tablespoon Shaoxing wine
- ½ teaspoon tapioca starch
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- 3 dried scallops, soaked in hot water
- 2 teaspoons scallop sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 red chilli, seeded and finely diced
- Soak mushrooms in 2 cups water overnight until soft. Drain and reserve the mushroom infusion. Cut off stems from mushrooms and finely chop the stems.
- Remove heads and shells from prawns. Slam prawn flesh on to bottom of bowl to constrict the muscles. Cut into small dice.
- Simmer prawn heads and shells together with mushroom caps in mushroom infusion for 2 hours, or braise in pressure cooker for 30 minutes. Discard heads and shells, reserve the braising liquid.
- Combine pork, prawns, water chestnuts, mushroom stems, cilantro stems, soy sauce, wine, tapioca starch, sugar and pepper in a bowl. Mix thoroughly.
- Place mushroom caps on a plate, gills side up. With a strainer, sift a layer of tapioca starch or cornstarch on each mushroom. Stuff each mushroom with filling, creating a small mound on top. Place a cilantro leaf on top of filling on each mushroom. Make meatballs with remaining filling.
- Heat cooking oil in a wok over high heat, then reduce to medium. Arrange the mushrooms stuffing side down in the wok and fry until they are lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Turn them over and brown for about 1 minute.
- Combine reserved braising liquid with oyster sauce and scallop sauce. Add the dried scallop and its soaking liquid. Add to the wok and cover. Reduce the heat to low and steam for 2 minutes.
- Remove cooked mushrooms and arrange on a serving platter. Reduce gravy until thick and glossy, dress mushrooms with the gravy. Serve immediately with a garnish of finely diced red chilli.