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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Deep Fried Oyster Mushroom 炸鲍鱼菇

Inspired by my mother-in-law, this is one of the few dishes that probably fits the Pringles' original slogan "once you pop, you just can't stop" really well lol. Thinking back, I am amazed with how that big serving of deep fried oyster mushroom never needed much time to be wiped off squeaky clean and still left me craving for more soon after. Intended to be served as part of a meal, I think we would have all agreed that it made a perfect snack even better judging from the fact that it was always almost gone even before we actually took our places for dinner. Getting a chance to watch and learn as she was making this in the kitchen during one of our trips back, she certainly did make the whole process looked simple enough  - preparing the batter, minimal coating and a gentle deep frying.


While her recipe called for a coating flour commonly used for frying chicken, I waas taught how it can always be substituted easily combining a bit of this and that. But even with that gold piece of advice in hand, it still took a lot more of a kitchen newbie like me to get all these right in the beginning - the ratio of flours, the batter consistency, the flavoring and the correct heat to begin with. A couple of experiments and soon things slowly took a change for the better. Done right, the end result will be a plate of golden brown fried mushrooms crispy on the outside while retaining their juicy and tender natures on the inside. 


Mushroom and the no-wash rule. This is something that I knew nothing about until the topic once came up in one of the episodes of Ugly Betty - a scene with Betty's papi (father) yelling at a chef on the TV about wiping the mushrooms instead of washing them lol. Well honestly, as silly as I can get sometimes, I actually did bother checking on the internet and tried looking for its relevance then. Unknown to me all the while, there indeed are plenty of ongoing comments and discussions about whether or not mushrooms should be handled in some specific ways. Some said that mushrooms are naturally good absorbents and rinsing will therefore allow part of the water to be absorbed rendering them less flavorful. And some have debunked that saying that water naturally constitutes over 90% of a mushroom so a little of water can hardly do harm. 


I do have to confess - despite the fact that it actually came out from a scene of a drama, I have stood by that very first idea that I came across since lol. Not all the time, however. There are still times when I would find it hard to be convinced that certain mushrooms are clean enough with just a few wipes, and then I will be catching myself giving them a real quick rinse still. So a truth or a myth? Obviously I am still a clueless me.


Deep Fried Oyster Mushroom 炸鲍鱼菇
1/2 lb oyster mushroom
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1 cup iced cold water
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
a dash or two of Chinese 5-spice powder
a sprinkle or two of salt
a few dashes of white pepper powder
enough cooking oil for deep frying

1. Clean the oyster mushroom as how you personally think how they should be handled. In the case when rinsing feels more appropriate, a point worth noting here would be to have them done slightly ahead of time to allow sufficient time to air dry prior to deep frying.
2. Sift in both the flours into a big, deep bowl and add in the 5-spice powder, salt and white pepper powder. Mix in the Shaoxing wine next. 
3. Add in the water slowly and whisk lightly to mix well. Keep stirring gently until a smooth batter is obtained.
4. Heat up the wok with the cooking oil on high heat. Make sure that the oil is well heated before the frying begins. Have it tested with a wooden chopstick. If a stream of tiny bubbles forms around the chopstick when dipped into the oil, the oil is ready. Give a moment more otherwise.
5. Once well heated, turn the heat down to medium. Working one at a time, dip the mushroom into the batter and swirl lightly to coat evenly.
6. Let any excess batter drip off before transferring it into the hot oil. Repeat with the rest of the mushrooms. Keep in mind not to overcrowd the wok at any time.
7. When it starts browning on the bottom, flip them over and let fry until it browns evenly on the whole. 
8. Once nicely crisped up and looking golden in color, remove from oil and drain well on a paper towel.
9. Serve as it is, or with the Thai sweet chili dipping sauce on the side.

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