SF Feast: Crispy Shiitakes With Chinese Steamed Bun from Brian of @goodlifecookin

As we count down the days for our #Luckyrice SF Feast, we're satisfying our cravings with a recipe from vegan blogger, Brian Choi Dea of @goodlifecookin who found the real flavor of the "farm to chopsticks" movement. He shares his story and one of his favorite vegan, Chinese recipes with us here:


"Discovering a plant-based lifestyle has exposed me to endless possibilities of ingredients and dishes that I just never knew could exist. Growing up as a Chinese American in a heavily populated Chinese community such as San Francisco, I was always taught that our traditional foods were healthy and good for our soul. I was the type of person who took pride in making a perfect roast pork skin at home, or the best won-ton supreme broth I could possibly make.  And while I do miss some of the nuances of flavors that I used to experience with traditional Chinese cooking, what I've found through plant-based cooking, is another dimension of flavors that just so happens to be healthier for my body and better for the environment.  I am now embracing ethical eating by avoiding animal products and I haven't looked back at my old diet since.  I am now more motivated then ever, to bring new life to the traditional cuisines that I grew up loving.  My hope is that by making these dishes plant-based and amazingly tasty, I can share a healthy lifestyle with a future generation that will look to embrace a compassionate change. A change that is sustainable and better for all beings who we share this planet with."

Shiitake Mushrooms Rule

Here’s the thing about shiitake mushrooms, they have perfect texture via all methods of cooking and provide the perfect earthy, smokey, and nutty flavor balance of all the mushroom kingdom. Crispy Shiitakes therefor are the ultimate way to prepare shiitake mushrooms, at least in my opinion, because they really hold in texture when fried and have amazing flavor profiles.

The next catch is to then pop these crispy shiitakes into a Chinese steamed bun. If you’re uncertain what type of bun I’m referring to, just think of the taco looking white buns that typically come to the table when ordering peking duck.  You can purchase these in the frozen food section at any asian grocery market. 

Vegan Peking Duck?

What we’re going to do now, is leave the fucking duck alone, cause we’re Vegan, and draw from the flavor profiles of shiitake, green onions, and hoisin sauce, to mirror an even better dish. The end result will leave you wanting to stuff your face with hundreds of these shiitake buns from heaven until you realize your buns are expanding in your stomach and you’ve over indulged to the point of food coma. For this reason, please be careful when eating these!

To start, we’re going to quickly prepare the green onions for the toppings later. We want to curl these green onions by slicing them real thin.

We’ll then take a small bowl filled with water and 2-3 cubes of ice to bathe the green onions in. This will aid in the curling process and remove some of the bitterness you get with eating raw onion. 

If you do not have ice on hand, that’s okay! You’ll just need to throw the onions in cold water and put the bowl in the fridge. Simple as that.

An Easy Frying Batter

Next up, we’ll make the batter mix. 

The key to a really good Vegan batter mix is to add some corn starch, baking powder, and baking soda, while using really cold water to mix everything together. To give this dish a touch more nuttiness of a flavor profile, we’ll lean on the sesame seeds and throw that into the batter as well.

Toasted sesame seeds will really make the shiitake mushroom flavor come alive. It’s always best to use fresh shiitake mushrooms whenever you can and to prepare them for this dish, we’ll simply rinse them off and thoroughly pat them dry. 

Give them a thick slicing to prepare them for the batter. I find that slicing them thick gives more of a bite to this dish, but if you like thin shiitake mushrooms, you can do that too! 

For easy of cooking, I like to minimize the number of dishes I use, so I just drop the shiitake mushrooms right into the mixing bowl and evenly coat them all.

Deep Fry or Shallow Fry?

While they are resting in the batter, heat up a pan with 1/2 cup of oil. I prefer to shallow fry these, so I can use less oil. The cons of shallow frying is that splatter of hot oil is inevitable, so please be careful when you start the frying process!  As a kid, my mom would always stick a chopstick into the oil and watch for the bubbles. That’s when you knew the oil was hot enough. 

I honestly don’t know what temperature the oil falls at, I just go by this golden rule of seeing bubbles. When the oils ready, just lay down the shiitakes gently and shallow fry them on each side for about 3-4 minutes. 

I like mine really crispy, so 4-5 minutes is even okay. What you’ll want to look for is a deep golden brown color being cautious that you’re not burning them.

The crust should build up and the shiitake mushrooms should remain tender inside. Amazingly crispy is what we all love! When they are done, you’ll want to just lay them down on a paper towel and sprinkle them with seasoning while they are still hot.  

For these mushrooms, I chose to use a five spice powder, along with a touch of truffle salt. One might say I’m a little obsessed with truffle salt, but hey, who isn’t?! I don’t put a ton of salt on it either, just enough to give it that umph. We’ll draw from the salt profile of the hoisin sauce later.

The Best Steamer…Ever.

Once the last batch of shiitakes goes down on the frying pan, I’d start heating up a pot of water to prepare for steaming your Chinese buns. I received an awesome steamer by Jia Inc., as a birthday gift from my beloved sister.

The bamboo center rack gives a very traditional flavor profile to the steam and this steamer just looks fuckin’ sexy sitting on any stove top! At any rate, you’ll want to steam the Chinese buns for about 5 minutes until they are piping hot. 

At this point, you’ll want to keep them hot and moist for serving. If timing isn’t right, you can just plate these buns with a warm, wet paper towel, over them to keep them nice and toasty.

Curled Green Onions!

Your green onions should be super curly by now so let’s get them ready to assemble our dish. We’ll also slice up some avocado to add a little more creamy texture to the buns too. To prepare the sauce, just mix hoisin sauce with Vegan mayonnaise and that’s it! For a sauce, it really doesn’t get much easier than that. 

The Build

What I do is take the bun and gently fold it down flat. Then, spread a nice layer of sauce, along with 2-3 pieces of shiitake mushrooms that we’ve fried. The avocado slices go down on one side, and the whole thing gets  topped with green onions.

Then, just fold them up and if you’re preparing this for an appetizer or plating these for later, use a toothpick to hold them in place. 

I eat these as an entree, but you can choose to serve these as whatever type of dish you’d like. They go great with just about anything. Hell, you can even throw some kimchi in these and make the dish spicy with some Sriracha sauce. Possibilities are quite endless. 

Well, I hope you truly enjoy this great plant based dish.  They will absolutely be a head turner at your next Vegan dinner party. Have a blast with them and remember to eat like you give fuck.