mushroom + tofu san choy bau {gluten-free + vegan}


I often get asked where I find inspiration for my recipes and my stock-standard answer is 'everywhere'! Like most food writers I find inspiration all over the place; from childhood memories and travel, to cookbooks, cooking shows and magazines. But more often than not I find what I'm looking for at my local farmers market. 

I was recently asked by The Australian Mushroom Association to come up with a recipe for Mother's Day using you guessed it... mushrooms! By the time I'd shut down my computer I already had a few ideas bouncing around in my head, but it wasn't until our weekly trip to our local farmers markets on Saturday that I knew exactly what I would make. There are two mushroom stalls at the markets, one stacked high with boxes of beautiful button and flat mushrooms, while the other is filled with the slightly more exotic varieties of pink oyster, enoki and shiitake. I grabbed a bag each of the button and flats, knowing that these are the two most common varieties available to most and are easy enough to come by. As we carried on to the stall next door, the most beautiful organic butterhead lettuces called out to me and it was there that I decided what I was going to make...

Mushrooms are often touted as 'vegetarian meat' and with good reason too. They provide all sorts of vitamins and minerals which are otherwise quite hard to find in a plant-based diet, such as B Vitamins (B12 and Folate), Vitamin D and minerals such as selenium, phosphorus, copper and potassium. 
As many of you may know, I was a relative late-comer to the mushroom party and only really started to love them when I was pregnant with my first child... my body obviously knew what it was up to, and made sure I got a near daily-dose of the good stuff. Nowadays I simply can't get enough. These mustardy mushrooms on toast go down a treat on the weekends, while these lemon thyme mushrooms on buttered quinoa are a winner anytime of the day, if you ask me.

San choy bau (sometimes known as san choi bow), is traditionally made using mince of some sort, but mushrooms make for a lovely vegetarian change, along with a little tofu for added protein and loads of flavoursome ingredients such as garlic, ginger and chilli to keep things exciting. While my version may not be traditional enough to carry the name in the eyes of purists, the flavours are beautiful whatever you 'd like to call this! This makes for a perfect snack or light lunch and I know I'd be pretty damn happy if someone whipped these up for me this Mother's Day!
Lastly, the Australian Mushroom Growers Association are running a competition at the moment where you have the chance to win one of five $500 cash prizes. Click here to enter and good luck!

Mushroom + tofu san choy bau
Adding the roots and stems of the coriander (cilantro) plant gives this a somewhat South-East Asian vibe. I don't like wasting all that beautiful flavour, so I just use it up wherever I can even if this may be frowned upon by purists. If you can't find coriander with the roots attached, don't worry. Just finely chop up as much of the stems as you can. Shaoxing is a Chinese cooking wine made from rice. You can find it at Asian grocers for a couple of bucks. If you are coeliac or very sensitive to gluten, please double check labels as some brands contain wheat. If you'd rather be on the safe side, a dash of dry sherry gives a similar flavour to shaoxing and can be used here instead. I used butterhead lettuce, but crisp iceberg is perfect too. If you don't want to add tofu to the mix, use an extra handful or two of button mushrooms.
Serves 2-4 as an entree or light meal (to be honest though, I could eat this all by myself!)

500g button mushrooms
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced, white + green parts kept separate
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
1 long red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
the finely chopped stems and roots of 1 coriander (cilantro) plant (reserve leaves to garnish)
1 tablespoon shaoxing cooking wine (or dry sherry* see headnotes)
1 tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce or tamari
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
a good pinch unrefined raw sugar
Ground white pepper, to taste
3-4 slices pan-fried firm tofu, finely diced
lettuce leaves and coriander (cilantro) leaves, to serve

Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp cloth, if dirty. Slice them thinly then roughly chop into small pieces. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add oil, garlic, spring onions, ginger, chilli and coriander stems/roots and stir-fry 20-30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add mushrooms and cook, whilst stirring for 5-6 minutes. The mushroom juices will come out, so continue cooking until the pan is relatively dry and the juices evaporated. Add shaoxing, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and pepper and cook briefly until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and stir through the finely diced tofu. Cool mixture for about 5 minutes before serving spoonful's in lettuce cups, topped with extra coriander (cilantro) leaves. 

This post was sponsored by Australian Mushroom Growers Association. I love mushrooms and I love encouraging people to eat real food made using local seasonal ingredients, so agreeing to do this post was a no-brainer. Eat more 'shrooms people! (All views are my own, naturally).

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  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Delicious Everyday
    May 5, 2014 at 5:40 am

    Gorgeous recipe Emma! I love mushroom san choy bau. Mushrooms really do work so well here.

    • Reply
      May 5, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      Thanks Jennifer! xx

  • Reply
    May 5, 2014 at 7:04 am

    This looks so tasty, even for a meat lover like me!
    I like how you served it in lettuce cups too, although whenever I try to use lettuce as cups I always end up with small thin strips of lettuce and none of them are bowl like at all!!

    • Reply
      May 5, 2014 at 12:51 pm

      Thanks love. I use the inner lettuce leaves and make sure that the stem is removed before trying to pull off each leaf. This way the leaves will stay intact. Also much easier to do when using butterhead lettuce too, as the leaves are not so compact.

  • Reply
    tammi | recipe junkie
    May 5, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Oh gosh, I can't remember a time that I didn't eat mushrooms. I remember my father keeping a box of them at the bottom of the linen cupboard in the hopes of growing his own. Didn't happen, we ate through them faster than they grew.
    Am really digging the flavours in this dish, I can almost taste them from here.

    • Reply
      May 5, 2014 at 12:52 pm

      I've often though about growing my own mushrooms too, maybe oneday… Actually, the fancy mushroom stall at our farmers markets sell mushroom growing kits! They looks super easy xx

  • Reply
    Christie @ Fig & Cherry
    May 5, 2014 at 9:39 am

    Butter lettuce is just the perfect vessel for this! Much better even than iceberg because you get that beautiful softness as well as a bit of crunch. Yep, would love someone to make this for me on Mother's Day 🙂

    • Reply
      May 5, 2014 at 12:54 pm

      Good luck with that love! Hehe. I'll have to make it myself if I want to eat some of this on Mother's Day! 😉

  • Reply
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    May 5, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Such an awesome meal! Totally filling and totally delicious!

  • Reply
    May 5, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Sounds quick and delicious. So, I'm making dumplings today and a few filler recipes I'm looking at are actually quite similar to this one. For one, they also calls for shaoxing! I just moved back to the Central Coast of CA and have not yet had time to find that elusive Asian market, but I was able to get mirin; I'm in wine country, so I also have access to some delicious local wines. Do you think mirin or maybe a sharp/dry white might be an appropriate substitute?! – a clean eating bento blog. Japanese or Asian-inspired!

    • Reply
      May 7, 2014 at 1:54 am

      I don't see why a dry white wouldn't work here, it's only 1 tbsp xx

  • Reply
    May 5, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    i love mushrooms too and bought some cremini ones the other day…i want to try this dish already.

  • Reply
    Five O'clock Shallots
    May 6, 2014 at 11:06 am

    These look delicious! and your pictures are beautiful, as usual.

    • Reply
      May 7, 2014 at 1:55 am

      Thanks love xx

  • Reply
    May 6, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Oh my God these look so good! I've had a major hankering for San Choy Bau recently, hello dinner!

  • Reply
    May 9, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    This looks delicious!

  • Reply
    Geoffrey Transom
    March 24, 2016 at 4:51 am

    This San Choi Bao recipe is part of our rotation now – yet another data point in the growing set of "Veggie food can be awesome and tasty" (along with Black bean burritos with smoky chipotle sauce and masses of fresh coriander and lime; Tofu Banh Mi; Channa Masala and Spicy Coconut Dal with lime pickle; Tofu and Vege Pad Thai; Veggie Manchurian and Cauliflower 65… if you ate like me, you would weigh what I do!)

    One point though: if you want the best mushroom recipe in the world – get a big flat brown field mushie, marinade it for a couple of hours with olive oil, lemon juice, chillie and thyme, then blast the hell out of it (until it's charred) on a briquette barbie (e.g., a Weber).

    Make a 'fake-steak' sanga on a toasted bun with 'mato, cheese, fried ungies, lettuce, mayo and barbeque sauce. (Vegans: ditch the cheese… the burger's still awesome). Full-strength Aussies might even add a slice or two of beetroot.

    When Jamie Oliver did it, I was skeptical. As a routinely-lapsing former carnivore, I figured there was NO WAY that a mushie was going to give me the 'steak sanger' experience (and I should know: my Dad has FIVE barbeques all in a row).

    Now obviously that recipe is not going to win any pooncey prizes, but I would eat that until I was carried out in an ambulance, my forearms covered in the juices that flow down your hands as you fang out on the best burger you ever 'et'.

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