Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
I first encountered oyster mushroom ‘calamari’ at Yong’s Green Food. There was really no question we would order them, with Fabio being the former seafood lover that he is. I have never eaten calamari, but working in hospitality I have delivered more plates of it to customers than I could count, so I figured it must be really good. Fabio definitely thinks so, and even I must admit that while I am quite put off at the idea of eating octopus tentacles, the perfectly golden crumb, light crunch and dipping sauce always appealed to me. Needless to say, I had high expectations.
Unfortunately, and as much as it pains me to say this about my beloved Yong’s, I was disappointed. The idea may have been nothing short of genius, but what was delivered wasn’t what I was hoping for. While tasty, the use of King Oyster mushrooms unfortunately resulted in some very rubbery ‘calamari’. King Oyster mushrooms act almost identically to scallops and calamari when cooked: overdone and they bounce. The rice flour batter was also too thick and not light and crispy like I was hoping for. In fact I think batter was the wrong way to go all together.
Despite my initial disappointment, however, I knew that oyster mushroom calamari had too much potential to be forgotten, so I decided to make my own version at home. I used regular oyster mushrooms rather than the king oysters to avoid any chance of rubbery-ness. I also crumbed them with rice crumbs (for extra crunch) instead of battering, and lightly seasoned the flour for a flavour boost. These are OUT OF THIS WORLD good. Seriously.
This was one of those recipes with instant success, that I have made over and over as a starter at dinner parties. It makes great finger food, and is suitable for whatever style of cuisine I am serving as the main. They can be made with just the seaweed seasoning below (my favourite), salt and pepper seasoning, cajun seasoning, garlic salt, or just a touch of regular salt, depending on what you want to serve them with. They can be served with aioli, mayo, chilli sauce, Lebanese garlic dip or vegan tartare. So many possibilities! Be sure to make more than you think you will eat, because these vanish at an astonishing speed. Everyone who tries them raves about them, and my dad even said they were better than real calamari.
To be honest I almost selfishly kept this recipe to myself, but if this post helps to keep octopi in the ocean and off people’s plates, then that is reward enough.
200g Oyster mushrooms
A third of a sheet of toasted nori
Good pinch sea salt
1/2 tsp fine chilli powder
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup plain flour or GF flour
1 1/2 cups rice crumbs, Orgran brand preferred (or Panko crumbs if you don’t have access to them)
1 cup soy milk mixed with 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar OR cold aquafaba
Sunflower or canola oil, for deep frying (approx 3 -4 cups)
Salt to taste
1. Preheat oven to 150C and place an oven tray inside.
2. Slice mushrooms into strips around 2.5cm wide. It doesn’t matter if some pieces are different shapes or slightly larger. Place into a large bowl and toss the flour through, until all the mushrooms have a light coating.
3. In another bowl, place the aquafaba or soymilk-vinegar mixture. Place the rice crumbs in a third bowl.
4. Take around 2 tbsp of the rice crumbs and put into a mortar and pestle. Crush up the nori sheet with your hands into the mortar. Add a pinch of salt and the chilli powder. Grind until the nori is in tiny pieces/powdery. Add this to the rest of the breadcrumbs. Season with black pepper and mix well.
5. One at a time, dip the mushrooms strips into the soymilk/aquafaba, shake off the excess and dip into the breadcrumbs. Make sure they are fully coated. Place onto a plate or tray in a single layer and repeat until all coated. If you aren’t going to fry them straight away, put them in the fridge
6. Meanwhile, heat approximately 5cm of oil in a wok over medium heat until hot but not smoking. When the oil is hot enough, a clump of crumb placed in the oil will bubble rapidly. Fry the mushrooms in small batches of around 7 or 8 until golden and crispy and place on paper towel to drain. Transfer the fried mushrooms to the tray in the oven to stay crispy while you fry the rest. Each batch should take around three minutes to fry. You may need to adjust the temperature of the oil throughout frying to keep it at the right temperature.
7. Sprinkle with a little salt and toss and transfer to a serving plate. Serve immediately and sneakily eat a few before you take them to the table (getting extra is the cook’s privilege).