Yep you heard right. These look like eels (without the scary faces and sharp teeth) but are made from shiitake mushrooms and are entirely vegan. They have that lovely dense chewy texture of rehydrated mushrooms and a crunchy golden potato starch coating.
I made this recipe by merging one from Fuchsia Dunlop’s latest cookbook – Land of Fish and Rice, and one from Carolyn Phillips’s blog – Madame Huang’s Kitchen. And god they’re good. I’m just back from the shops restocking the mushrooms because these are going to be a regular around my place. I’ve doubled the original quantities. Here’s how I did them:
18 dried shiitake mushrooms about 8cm diameter
120g potato starch
peanut oil for deep frying
25g fresh ginger peeled and cut into fine slivers
2 tsp sesame oil
For the sauce
2 tablesp Shaoxing wine
3 tablesp sugar
3 tablesp Chinkiang vinegar
4 tsp light soy
Soak the shiitakes in boiling water for at least half an hour until soft. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
Remove mushrooms from soaking water and squeeze as much water as possible out of them. Remove the stalks. With kitchen scissors cut the mushroom caps from the outside edge around in a spiral until you reach the centre. This will give you a long piece about 1cm wide with a round ‘head’. Just before frying them toss them in potato starch til they’re evenly coated and brush off excess.
Heat the peanut oil in a deep pan or wok til hot but not smoking (200°C). Scatter the mushroom eels into the hot oil and fry briefly until they are no longer floppy. Pick them out of the oil with tongs and set them aside. Bring the oil back up to the original temperature and fry them again until they’re golden and crisp. Remove them again and set aside.
Return the wok to a high flame with about 2 tablesp of the frying oil. Add the ginger and stir fry briefly until fragrant.
Add the sauce and stir to dissolve sugar as it boils. I like to let it reduce a bit to thicken. Check the sauce at this stage to see if you want a bit more soy for salt. Tip the ‘eels’ into the sauce and stir rapidly to coat them. Off the heat stir in the sesame oil and serve.