Torn oyster mushrooms are mixed with a lightly seasoned batter made with starch and egg, and deep fried. A cross between tempura and crisp potato wedges, these mushroom fries are light and crisp, and just outrageously good.
The inspiration comes from two sources from different locations. The first is Mushroomburger in Tagaytay City where mushroom fries are sold. Since we discovered it in the menu, we’ve never gone to Mushroomburger without ordering it. Sometimes, we even order extra to munch on in the car.
The second inspiration comes from China by way of a blogger named Elaine, the fantastic cook behind China Sichuan Food. When Alex came across her fried oyster mushroom recipe, that was when realized that what we had been enjoying at Mushroomburger for so long is actually a dish with a Chinese origin. Imagine that!
The recipe is pretty simple. But you can’t make mushroom fries properly without the freshest oyster mushrooms. Those that are already soggy after sitting in the market or grocery for days won’t do at all. Neither will rehydrated dried oyster mushrooms.
What you need are firm oyster mushrooms that are free from blemishes. The best, of course, are those that have just been harvested. If there is an oyster farm near you, you’re guaranteed to have the freshest oyster mushrooms under the sun.
If not, well… Good oyster mushrooms can be bought in the market and grocery too. Just inspect the mushrooms carefully. They should be uniformly off-white in color and dry to the touch. The texture should be springy and there shouldn’t be any bruises.
When you have your super fresh oyster mushrooms, you can make mushroom fries easily. Just remember that just like French fries, the cooking technique employed here is deep frying. No, that doesn’t mean you need to have a deep fryer like the ones you see in fast food joints. Any good frying pan and a working stovetop will do. But you’ll need enough cooking oil to reach a depth of at least two inches. Three is even better.
Ready to make mushrooms fries? Here’s the recipe.
Cut off the root ends of the oyster mushrooms and discard. Tear the mushrooms into two three pieces so that each piece is no more than 3/4 inch on the wider end.
In a mixing bowl, beat the egg and cornstarch with the salt and pepper.
Add the torn oyster mushrooms to the egg-starch mixture. Toss lightly but thoroughly to make sure that each piece is lightly coated with the batter.
In a frying pan, heat enough cooking oil to reach a depth of at least two inches. Temperature is crucial in cooking mushroom fries. If the oil isn't hot enough, the fries will be soaked in oil and soggy. If the oil is too hot, the batter will get too dark. If you have a thermometer, the idea temperature of the oil is 350F. If you don't have a thermometer, test the oil by dipping a bamboo skewer in it. If small bubbles float around the skewer continuously, the oil is ready. If you don't have a bamboo skewer, watch for fine wisps of smoke on the surface of the oil.
Drop the battered oyster mushrooms into the hot oil one piece at a time. Fry no more than eight to 12 pieces, depending on the size of your frying pan.
Fry the mushrooms for about thirty seconds then flip them over. Keep them moving, flipping occasionally, until the batter is golden brown and crisp. They cook fast so watch them light a hawk.
Scoop out the cooked mushroom fries and lay on a stack of paper towels (or use a metal strainer).
Fry the next batch of mushrooms, and so on, until all the mushrooms have been fried.
Sprinkle finishing salt over the mushroom fries before serving. For an authentic Chinese flavor, mix salt with ground roasted Szechuan (Sichuan) peppercorns. We, however, are partial to our herb salts (Alex used the all-purpose blend) but you can sprinkle your mushroom fries with the simplest combination of salt and pepper.
The dip? You don't really need any if your finishing salt is good. But, if a dip is part of your fries ritual, plain Japanese mayo is the perfect choice.