I had already cooked braised beef for us carnivores, the rice was already simmering and all that remained to be done was to cook a vegetable dish for vegetarian Sam that could double as a side dish for the rest of us. I took out what vegetables there were in the fridge, chose two jars of Chinese sauces and checked if we had enough eggs. Then, I went ahead and cooked this Chinese-flavored vegetable and mushroom torta.
That’s the thing about having family members with different diets and preferences. Can’t deprive us carnivores of our meat but since our meat dish for the day has absolutely no vegetables in it, logic dictates that there be a second dish with lots of vegetables in it. Instead of cooking a side dish for us and another vegetable dish for Sam, the torta fit everyone’s requirements. Sam is not vegan, she loves to incorporate eggs in her meals so that makes the vegetable and mushroom torta simply perfect!
What’s in the torta? Chayote, carrot, bell pepper, shallots, scallions and wood ear mushrooms. Instead of garnishing the torta with the usual ketchup, I drizzled Sriracha ketchup over it before serving.
It’s a pantry dish. It’s not a dish that I carefully planned and shopped for accordingly. It’s about gathering whatever there is in the kitchen and turning seemingly disparate ingredients into something tasty, pretty and good enough to have everyone asking for second helpings.
Yes, the Chinese-flavored vegetable and mushroom torta was delicious! Combining black beans garlic sauce with chili garlic sauce really works. It did wonders with fried fish, it did even more wonders with vegetables.
Can some other kind of mushrooms be used to make this torta? Sure! Shiitake would be especially good. Wood ears are not as flavorful as shiitake but I like the jelly-like texture with a little crunch. They are also nutritious and fiber rich. There are claims that wood ears help blood circulation and its Vitamin K content helps prevent blood coagulation.
I understand, however, that not everyone is friends with wood ear mushrooms. Some of you may not have encountered it yet, its appearance may intimidate you and its preparation may seem daunting. Use whatever mushroom is familiar to you, by all means. Whatever your mushroom of choice, if using fresh, precook the mushrooms along with the vegetables to get rid of the water content. Too much moisture and the torta will turn soggy.
A non-stick pan is most useful for making torta. If you don’t have one, just remember to heat the pan before coating the bottom with oil and make sure that the oil is hot before pouring in the uncooked torta. That should lessen the chance that the torta will stick to the pan.
If you’re the kind of reader who jumps to the recipe without reading the introductory notes, it’s too bad that you’re missing the tidbits about wood ear mushrooms and the tip about preventing the torta from sticking to the pan.
Chinese-flavored Vegetable and Mushroom Torta
- 1 chayote
- 1 carrot
- 1 bell pepper
- 2 shallots
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 half-inch knob ginger
- 3 wood ear mushrooms (soaked, if using dried)
- 2 tablespoons sesame seed oil divided
- 1 tablespoon black bean chili sauce (I used Lee Kum Kee)
- 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce (I used Lee Kum Kee)
- 4 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons finely sliced scallions
- toasted sesame seeds to garnish
Peel, core and julienne the chayote and carrot.
Deseed and julienne the bell pepper.
Peel the shallots and thinly slice.
Smash the garlic cloves, discard the skins and finely chop.
Peel the ginger and finely chop.
Trim the wood ear mushrooms then thinly slice.
Heat one tablespoon of sesame seed oil in a frying pan. Over medium-low heat, cook the sliced shallots and ginger until the shallot slices are soft and lightly browned.
Add the garlic to the shallots and ginger. Sprinkle in a little salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for half a minute.
Turn up the heat to medium and throw in the chayote, carrot, bell pepper and wood ear mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are done.
Stir in the black beans garlic sauce and chili garlic sauce. Cook, stirring, for another 30 seconds.
In a bowl, beat the eggs with two tablespoons of sliced scallions.
Add the cooked vegetables the mushrooms and stir gently.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of sesame seed oil into a clean frying pan. Pour in the egg mixture. Cook over low heat, covered tightly, until the eggs are set and the underside is nicely browned and lightly crisp.
Loosen the bottom and sides of the torta from the pan and invert on a plate. Garnish with the remaining sliced scallions, toasted sesame seeds and Sriracha ketchup.