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A&E >  Cooking

Sauteed mushrooms with chile-garlic sauce make an umami-packed vegetarian main dish

Mushrooms with chiles, limes and mint.   (Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post)
Mushrooms with chiles, limes and mint.  (Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post)
By Ann Maloney Washington Post

My introduction to mushrooms created a prejudice that took years to overcome. They were canned. I remember them being spongy, a bit slick, and the taste I recall most clearly was salt.

So, for years, I said no to mushrooms in or on anything. Big mistake. While I’m not one for proselytizing when it comes to food – you like what you like – I hate to think of anyone missing out the way I did just because they’ve never had well-prepared fresh mushrooms.

Anti-mushroom sentiment is a difficult one to overcome. Case in point: As I was buying an assortment of mushrooms to make this dish, the cashier at the grocery store couldn’t tell one from another, which I can understand.

I sometimes have trouble telling the varieties apart. Then, he confessed. “I don’t eat them.”


“Because of what they are. Fungus.”

Well, there’s no arguing with that.

For me, it was more of a texture issue, so the way I eased into mushroom eating was to buy them fresh and cook the sponginess out of them. (It took me a while, but I now like them raw as well.)

This recipe from “Everyone’s Table” by Gregory Gourdet with J.J. Goode (Harper Wave, 2021) is a great example of that, making it worth a try if you already love mushrooms or are willing to give them another shot.

Mushrooms are about 90% water. If you cook away that moisture, you’re left with more concentrated flavor, that meatiness that people talk about. That’s what I’m after. Sauteeing, roasting and grilling are three ways to get that deeper umami flavor.

In this recipe, you cut a mix of your favorite mushrooms into bite-size pieces and sautee them in a neutral oil over high heat until they turn golden. (Some people say they crisp, but I’ve never had success getting them truly crispy.)

I used shiitakes, button, cremini and thinly sliced oyster mushrooms. This results in a mix of textures, some with a bit more chewiness while others are thin and drier. In a hurry? Go with just shiitakes to reach that perfect goldenness more quickly.

You’ll need a large skillet, or you’ll have to cook the mushrooms in batches to avoid crowding. A too-crowded skillet will stop the water from evaporating, and you’ll end up with soft, steamed mushrooms. Not the goal.

The golden mushrooms are then tossed with a sauce made with thinly sliced chiles and minced garlic, giving them a fresh zing.

When made this way, these mushrooms can be a main course atop rice or your favorite noodles. You can sprinkle mint on top or try them with fresh parsley or basil leaves. Or you can serve them as a side dish or spoon them on top of broiled chicken, beef or fried tofu.

Mushrooms With Chiles, Limes and Mint

Adapted from “Everyone’s Table” by Gregory Gourdet with J.J. Goode (Harper Wave, 2021).

For the sauce

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice (from about 2 limes)

1 tablespoon finely chopped palm sugar, coconut sugar or white granulated sugar

2 small fresh green or red Thai chiles, seeded, ribbed, thinly sliced (may substitute with serrano chiles)

1 large clove garlic, finely grated or minced

For the mushrooms

3 tablespoons avocado, grapeseed or vegetable oil

2 pounds mixed mushrooms, trimmed and cut into large but still bite-size pieces

½ teaspoon fine salt

Large handful of mint leaves (about ½ ounce)

Cooked white or brown rice (optional)

Make the sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, chiles and garlic until the sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes.

Make the mushrooms: In a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the mushrooms to the pan, stir well and then spread them out into an even layer as best you can.

Cook, stirring every minute, until the mushrooms begin to release steam and water, then turn golden and begin to shrink to more or less a single layer, about 5 minutes.

Raise the heat to high and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are a deep golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes more. Stir in the salt and cook for 2 more minutes.

Transfer the mushrooms to a serving bowl, add the sauce, and give them a toss. Scatter the mint leaves, whole or torn, on top. Serve warm with rice on the side.

Yield: 4 servings

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