Timing can be everything when it comes to winter storms. You certainly want to avoid driving in one around these parts of Colorado. And if everything works out, you’ll get to your destination BEFORE the storm hits, then hunker down and wait for the powder day. We are not always so lucky nor do we always have the flexibility to chase storms, but we hit the jackpot for the second time in a row this weekend. Crested Butte began to see some flurries on Saturday, and by Sunday morning we went in search of the powder on the mountain. More snow (a lot more) is forecast for the next couple of days, which is great if you can stay put and enjoy it. We’ve already got a wall of snow 6 feet high adjacent to the driveway and it is not going away anytime soon. Neva likes standing on it because… she’s a crazy little girl.
it just keeps snowing
telemark skiing powder is possibly the best thing ever
Chinese New Year is coming up in a week and I’ve already got the grocery list for all of the ingredients I’ll need to make our little feast on Sunday, New Year’s Eve. For several years now, my minimum menu has included Chinese potstickers, cellophane noodle soup with dan jiao (egg dumplings), and rui tsai (lucky ten ingredient vegetables). Before I settled into my Chinese New Year cooking groove, I’d often call up my mom or grandmother to ask what I should make. They would always reply with a casual, “Oh, any Chinese dish is fine.” But then I’d get warnings not to eat squid (bad luck), or white tofu (death?), and not to buy salt for a month after New Year’s Day – oh heck, just to be safe, don’t buy salt for the month prior! That’s why I’ve settled on my SAFE list. Barring a few specific ingredients, I think most dishes should be fine. If you’re looking for ideas, you can always visit this recipe round up I posted a couple of years ago. Or perhaps you’d want to try these sweet and sour mushrooms?
Back in our Southern California days, we would occasionally meet up with friends at a Buddhist vegetarian Chinese restaurant in Monterey Park: Happy Family Restaurant. It may not sound very interesting or exciting, but everyone we took there (even the carnivores) loved it. Every dish on the menu was plant-based and absolutely delicious. Chinese Buddhists have a culinary tradition of making vegetarian “meat” from vegetables or tofu. One of our favorites was the vegetarian chicken, which was essentially deep fried mushrooms tossed in a wonderful sauce. My version of it is close, but… I use egg whites which is a big no-no in Buddhist cooking. It’s still vegetarian, but it isn’t vegan. If you want to go full Buddhist vegetarian, omit the egg whites in the batter and you’ll probably have to omit some of the sauce ingredients like Worcestershire sauce. I’m pretty sure there is no Worcestershire sauce in any Buddhist cooking – vegetarian or not. It’s just a hunch.
mushrooms, flour, cornstarch, egg whites, baking soda, salt, celery, vegetable oil, water
whisk the egg whites until frothy
combine the batter ingredients (except for the egg whites)
fold the egg whites into the batter
The recipe consists of two parts: fried mushrooms and the sweet and sour sauce. Toss them together for that irresistible combination of crunchy with savory sweet. I like to have my sauce already made (and kept warm) before the mushrooms are fried so that you get maximum crunch from the mushrooms lest they get soggy while you make the sauce.
sauce ingredients: sesame oil, worcestershire sauce, rice vinegar, plum sauce, oyster sauce, ketchup, and water
stir everything (but the water) together
add the water
When you are ready with the sauce mix, it all comes together in mere minutes. Sauté the celery in some vegetable oil and then add the sauce mixture to the hot pan. It should thicken and turn a nice deep shade of dark orange. This sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated until you are ready to fry the mushrooms. Just warm it up in a small saucepan or even microwave it before serving.
pour the sauce mixture into the pan
the sauce is ready when it thickens and deepens in color
The next step is to fry the mushrooms. Drop a few into the batter and stir to coat them. Let any extra batter drip back into the bowl and then carefully lower the mushrooms into the oil. They take only a few minutes to fry, but go by the color of the batter as your timer. The batter should be a golden brown when the mushrooms are ready. Drain them on a cooling rack or on paper towels. I fried my mushrooms in four batches because I don’t like it when the mushrooms are too crowded and they fuse together in the oil. When all of the mushrooms are done, toss them with the warm sauce.
drop a few mushrooms at a time
drain the fried mushrooms on paper towels
pour the sauce over the mushrooms
These mushrooms make a great vegetarian main with steamed or fried rice, or you can serve them as a side dish with other plates. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top if you like. Even if these mushrooms don’t taste or feel like chicken in your mouth, they are still yummy enough that it doesn’t really matter either way.
serve them fresh and hot
add sesame seeds for a little extra crunch and flavor
Sweet and Sour Chinese Mushrooms
1 lb. button mushrooms, cleaned
vegetable oil for deep-frying
sesame seeds (optional)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
pinch of salt
2 egg whites
4 tbsps ketchup
2 tbsps plum sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsps rice vinegar
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsps sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsps cornstarch
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup celery, 1/4-inch dice
Heat 3-inches of vegetable oil in a large or medium pot with high sides to a temperature of 350°F.
Make the batter: Mix the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, water, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, and salt together in a medium to large bowl. Stir until smooth. Beat the egg whites until they are slightly foamy. Fold the egg whites into the batter.
Make the sauce: In a liquid measuring cup, mix the ketchup, plum sauce, Worcestershire sauce, rice vinegar, oyster sauce, sugar, water, sesame oil, and cornstarch together. Set aside. In a sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the celery and sauté for a minute. Stir in the sauce and continue to stir until the sauce thickens. Cover and keep the sauce warm or you can re-warm it before serving.
Fry the mushrooms: Dip the mushrooms, four or five at a time, in the batter and turn them to completely coat each one. Shake off the excess batter and set each battered mushroom in the hot oil. Fry the mushrooms for about 3-4 minutes or until they are golden brown. Remove them from the hot oil to paper towels to drain. Place the mushrooms in a large bowl and pour the warmed sauce over them. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional) and serve hot. Serves 4.
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