Steamed Mushrooms With Pork And Sesame
Last week our blog was inundated with Middle Eastern posts about my old and new Lebanese favorites. And yes, there are still two more of those left that I will likely be throwing down as soon as the scent of cinnamon and sauteed onion leaves the air. This week, however, was all about Chinese New Year. We had traditional Chinese New Year food like dumplings, and then more dumplings, and now some NOT so traditional New Years food – pork stuffed ‘shrooms. This is not lucky food, or meaningful food, but out of all the Asian dishes that I make this one is likely Mike’s favorite, so I was willing to make some exceptions on the theme.
The first time that I made these steamed mushrooms, we were sitting with our real estate agent and waiting to hear back from the young chap who had put an offer in on Mike’s town house. The town house that we needed to sell, desperately, or we would not have been able to afford OUR house, THIS house, the house that was made to be ours! So they sat at the tiny eat-in kitchen table discussing options and next steps, and I fussed back and forth, refilling their soft drinks (KEENING for a scotch like you would not believe) and just putzing around in the the kitchen, trying not to panic. By the time that negotiations were done, my ‘putzing’ had managed to reach a thunderous peak and I had made Szechwan eggplant, sticky rice with Chinese sausage, sweet and sour bok choi, sesame steamed green beans, and these pork stuffed mushrooms….and there probably would have been more, but I ran out of groceries. Thank god for that.
Maybe these little bites have a special place in our hearts because they remind us of that night – the trepidation, followed by tremendous relief and the excitement of knowing that we would actually be able to do this, and it was going to happen. Maybe that’s the case, but no matter. We eat them. We like them. That’s good enough for me. Oh, and they’re cheap and easy – just like the cook.
One quick (I promise) note – have you ever eaten steamed mushrooms before? If not, have you ever eaten CANNED mushrooms? The texture is similar. I used to consider canned mushrooms to be a tragic fungal demise until I worked for a couple of Italian cousins who had an addiction to fresh rolls with marinated artichoke hearts and canned mushrooms. I ate them. I hated them. I ate them again. I strongly disliked them. I ate them again. Fine, maybe I didn’t hate them, but they certainly weren’t good. And then, like gin, I got a taste for the badness. Now, I could sit in front of the TV with a tin and be happy as a pig in…the sun.
Oh jeez, I promised to be quick and I totally lied to you. To your FACE, no less! Yes, well, if you don’t like canned mushrooms then you are unlikely to like steamed mushrooms. So why be a hater? Do them in the oven instead. A 20 minute bake at 350° and you’ll be happy, I’ll be happy, and you’ll have stuffed mushrooms with an Asian flair. I see nothing wrong with that, and I promise not to judge you. Now if you wore pants with fuzzy llamas on them, I would judge you. But for baking? Never.
Steamed Mushrooms With Pork And Sesame
Makes 20 – 25 stuffed mushrooms
- 500 g extra lean ground pork
- 20 – 25 large button mushrooms *
- 3 large cloves of garlic
- 1 inch fresh ginger
- 1 tsp chili oil *
- 1.5 tsp sesame oil
- 4 green onions
- salt & white pepper to taste
- 1-2 tbsp sesame seeds
* I tried to think of an analogy for the size of the mushrooms. Are they golf ball sized? Ping-pong ball sized? Are those the same size? Sadly, I am the least sportish person that you know. The best that I can do is suggest that the mushrooms must be big enough to stuff comfortably, but small enough that they aren’t colossal. Think of a two-bite brownie, right? These are like a two-bite mushroom, and the diameter is roughly 1.5 – 2″…I think. I’m not very good at this empirical measurement stuff.
** If you don’t have chili oil then you can use 1/4 – 1 tsp dried red chili pepper flakes, depending on how hot you like it.
Heidy-ho, this will be a relatively quick one. I know, you don’t believe me after that last ‘quick note’, but I promise to be better behaved. Start by putting your pork in a medium mixing bowl and pressing or using a rasp to grate in your garlic.
Peel a nice fat 1″ length of fresh ginger and get that grated in as well. If you don’t have a rasp, the smaller holes on your box grater will do the trick. It’s less expedient, but such is life.
Pour over that the sesame and chili oil.
Very finely slice 4 whole green onions – the white and green parts, for once. Add that to the pork and mix it together with your hands. Fine, yes, you can use a spoon if you must, but using your hands is satisfying and infinitely more reliable.
Add salt and white pepper to taste.
Wipe the mushrooms clean using a paper towel or small brush. Please be thorough. We all know a mushroom’s habitat. Pop the stems off (reserve them for another use) and reserve the caps.
Using a small teaspoon, gently clean out any residual stem from the mushroom cap, and scrape the sides to hollow it out. Clean out as much of the dark brown gills as you can, and continue cleaning it out until you have a nice mushroom shell about 1/4″ thick.
The filling is done, the mushrooms are prepped, and you’re ready to start stuffing! But please don’t ruin a whole batch of mushrooms because they haven’t been properly seasoned. Really, for the time that it takes, making a small 1″ patty and frying it up to check for salt is a really good idea. Also: these mushrooms like salt. A lot. It’s true, you’ll see.
Stuff the mushrooms until they are slightly heaping and rounded on top. Pack it in with your cupped palm, turning them as you press, so that you end up with a roughly spherical shape.
Sprinkle sesame seeds on top of the stuffed mushrooms. I’ve tried using black sesame seeds, or a mixture of white and black, and I wouldn’t recommend it. Not because of taste, just because of the aesthetics.
You can make prepare the mushrooms in advance and chill them up to a day.
Snuggle your mushrooms into a bamboo or steamer basket, and be sure to keep them in a single layer. You can steam more than one basket at a time, all stacked up and such, but don’t layer the mushrooms inside the basket or they won’t cook evenly. How many you can fit depends on the size of your basket.
Find the pot which is closest in size to your steamer basket, half fill it with water and bring it to a boil. Put the steamer basket on top, cover it, and let it steam away for 12-15 minutes or until the pork is firm and cooked through.
These mushrooms are a nice small snack, perfectly sized for two little bites of Asian-flavored goodness.
Two bites for me, but only one bite for Mike. I think he was born with the body of a man and the jaw of a snake.
And the Happy Cat waves “Bye-Bye! See you next Lunar New Year!!”
(Or as soon as we’ve eaten all the leftovers and we’re ready to start again.)