Sunday, August 25, 2013

"Everybody's Wokking" by Martin Yan - Vegetable Fried Rice featuring locally-grown King Oyster Mushrooms from Mississippi Mushrooms

Date I made this recipe:  August 18, 2013

Everybody’s Wokking by Martin Yan (From the national Public Television series YAN CAN COOK)
Published by:  Harlow & Ratner
ISBN:  0-9627345-0-0
Recipe:  Vegetable Fried Rice – p. 137

“And today’s secret ingredient is….Mushrooms!”

Given that this blog focuses on my cookbook collection, my usual MO is to select a cookbook I like and then select the recipe from that book.  This time around, I had an ingredient and just needed to find a recipe within one of my cookbooks in which to showcase it.  The ingredient?  King oyster mushrooms.  The recipe?  Vegetable Fried Rice.  The cookbook?  Everybody’s Wokking by Martin Yan.  (And no, the title is not Working but Wokking –as in stir fry.  And yes, it took me a minute as well!)

But wouldn’t you know that “working” (with an “r”) is exactly how I came to find today’s ingredient.  By day, I provide business and legal consulting services to small business clients of a St. Paul-based nonprofit – Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) – and NDC recently asked me to work on a marketing plan for one of their new clients, Mississippi Mushrooms (  After our last meeting, the guys gave me some of their product – king oyster mushrooms – to take home with me and of course, I couldn’t resist finding something to make with these mushrooms from my rather large (1,692 cookbooks…and counting) cookbook collection.

This though, was not as easy as you would think.  First, I may have a huge cookbook collection but only a small portion of it covers Asian food, a cuisine I think makes the best use of mushrooms.  Second, many of these cookbooks did not do much with fresh mushrooms (dried mushrooms, on the other hand, was a prevalent ingredient) and those that did utilized button mushrooms and button mushrooms are okay, but they are not and should never be confused with king oysters.  Worse, many recipes called for canned mushrooms and I’m sorry, they have their place (like in a casserole buried under a can Cream of X soup), but not for this dinner.

So after careful consideration and perusal, I selected the Martin Yan cookbook (given to me recently by my friend, Melissa Embser-Herbert) because it had what I was looking for:  a recipe that called for fresh mushrooms – nothing more, nothing less.

At this point, I must confess that I felt like I was on the Food Network Show, Iron Chef America, a show that pits one of the show’s previously-ordained Iron Chefs against a chef competitor in “kitchen stadium” where both must create fabulous dishes using a “secret ingredient.”  I love this show unless they feature a secret ingredient that I detest in which case, I hate this show.

So the two chefs meet in front of a table hidden by a hood that contains the secret ingredient.  Tension builds as they wonder what the secret ingredient will be.  And then on cue, “The Chairman” (the show’s primary judge), demands the secret ingredient be revealed, the chefs either groan or giggle with glee at the thought of the creative dishes they will make for the judging panel and then The Chairman yells (…“in the words of my uncle”…) “Allez Cuisine” (which roughly translates to “Get Cooking”) does a karate chop (Why, I don’t know) and with that, the chefs gather up the no-longer secret ingredient, race to their stations, yell orders at their sous chefs, and begin the battle (during the course of the show, this will be referred to as “Battle Mushroom” – I love it!). 

So today’s secret and only ingredient was king oyster mushroom (currently the main focus of Mississippi Mushroom’s business) and while normally the Iron Chefs and contestants create dishes to showcase the secret ingredient, here I just wanted to make sure it got incorporated into something tasty that most everyone would feel comfortable making.  I’m not into sous vied (cooking in a water bath food that is sealed in plastic pouches) or emulsions or extrusions or anything else.  Here, it was chop, wok and serve.  Easy!

That said, I did adjust the recipe just a tad, decreasing some ingredients (for example, I ran out of onion – how inconvenient) so that I could showcase the mushrooms.  And I must say, I think even a panel of food critics would have approved.  Was it Iron Chef America-worthy?  No.  Did I care?  No.  Should you?  No.  What you’ll get is very flavorful fried rice, loaded with chopped vegetables, featuring the wonderfully nutty-flavored king oyster mushroom, and kicked up a notch on the flavor wheel by the addition of fresh minced ginger. 

Although this recipe is titled “Vegetable” Fried Rice, it is not vegetarian; for that, substitute vegetable broth or water for chicken stock.  And when Martin Yan said “Of course, you can add meat or seafood if you like,” I did indeed “like” and so after I stir-fried the vegetables, I removed that mixture from the wok, added more oil and stir-fried some chicken bits in the same sauce that I fried the vegetables:  oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil.  Once cooked (this takes minutes) I then placed my chicken on top of the fried rice.  The result was very yummy and we pretty much polished off the rice in two easy sittings.

So the good news is that the king oyster mushrooms were delicious in this recipe but the bad news (well, not that bad) is that this company is just getting its product to market and so right now, you can find them at the Fulton Farmer’s Market (at 49th and Chowen in South Minneapolis) through fall and (soon) Linden Hill’s Co-op in the Linden Hill’s neighborhood of Minneapolis.  If all goes according to plan, they will be in a lot more local co-ops and local restaurants – stay tuned!  But if you get a chance, head to these locations and talk, if you can, to the three guys who put this business together – Ian Silver-Ramp, Nik Prenevost and Michael Melander – because you will get the very cool back-story of their mushrooms as follows: 

Once upon a time, three guys figured out how to grow really fabulous mushrooms indoors, year-round from (and you will love this) a concoction of (beer) brewer’s after-products, sourced from local brewer Boom Island Brewery, and sawdust from Wood from the Hood, a company that fashions very cool furniture out of fallen trees.  Add those ingredients together, mix with some agricultural know-how, “bake” in a special growing area and voila!  Fabulous mushrooms.  Actually fabulous “fertilizer-free” mushrooms since most mushrooms are grown using fertilizer.  Ew.  These mushrooms are fresh and clean and healthy for you to boot, containing lots of dietary fiber and iron and other essential vitamins.  But essentially, the thing you need to know about them is that they just taste good.  In fact, as I am wont to do, my manta in my kitchen today was “one [slice of mushroom] for the recipe, one for me…one for the recipe, two for me…”

Now, it is not uncommon on Iron Chef America for one of the culinary world’s celebrity judges to say something like “I’m normally not a [in this case] mushroom fan” but this recipe is delicious!”  After today, count me as one of the converted and start demanding these mushrooms from your local favorite vegetable “supplier.”  And remember, you heard it here first:  Mississippi Mushrooms!  (And let’s not forget Martin Yan, who I also think is very cool and is frequently a judge on Iron Chef America—so there!)

Vegetable Friend Rice – Serves 6
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
½ small onion, cut into ¼-inch cubes
1 small carrot, cut into ¼-inch cubes
1 stalk celery, cut into ¼-inch cubes
2 tablespoons chicken broth or water (or vegetable broth)
1 can (about 8 ounces) baby corn, drained, rinsed, and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 green onion (including top), thinly sliced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
½ cup sliced fresh mushrooms (Ann’s Note: try to use my clients’ king oyster mushrooms if you can)
4 cups cooked brown rice (Ann’s Note:  healthier yes, but I prefer white rice)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
¼ teaspoon white pepper
Shredded lecture for garnish
Place a wok or wide frying pan over high heat until hot.  Add the vegetable oil, swirling to coat the sides.  Add the garlic, ginger, and onion; cook until the onion is soft, about 30 seconds.  Add the carrot, celery, and broth and stir-fry for 2 minutes.  Add the baby corn, green onion, peas, mushrooms, and rice, separating the grains of rice with the back of a spoon; mix well.  Stir in the soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and pepper; cook until heated through.  Garnish with shredded lettuce.

Notes from Martin Yan:  Most Chinese do not eat brown rice; we get plenty of fiber in our diets from vegetables and fruits, and in the quantities in which we eat rice every day, using the whole grain would be too much.  But brown rice is popular in the West, especially among vegetarians, so here’s a way to use it along with assorted vegetables.  Of course, you can add meat or seafood if you like. 

How the rice is cooked in the first place affects the texture of fried rice.  If you want the rice to be separate and chewy, use slightly less water; if you prefer it more tender and sticky, use more water.

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