You know those steamed pork belly buns that seem to be everywhere in New York now, from the Momofuku restaurants to Baohaus to your neighborhood ramen place? The ones that more or less descended from Taiwanese gua bao and Japanese kakuni buns? I can practically live off these perfectly portable and juicy specimens. But in the interest of having normal cholesterol levels, I don’t.
I had some leftover buns from making pork belly buns last week for my cookbook, so I decided to try a vegetarian alternative that won’t leave me in a food coma after a weekday lunch. Portobello mushrooms make excellent burger fillings, so why wouldn’t the meaty mushrooms be equally fine as with Chinese buns? Another bonus over pork belly is that they take about 1/5 the cooking time, just 6 or 7 minutes in the pan. I used a simpler braising liquid than I would normally use for pork belly — rice wine, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce — and topped it off with shredded scallions and peanuts, like I do for Taiwanese-style pork belly buns.
I steamed the buns in the microwave, so the total time, including prep, was about 20 minutes. They make a quick lunch or dinner, but I imagine they would also be impressive little appetizers for a dinner party.
Chinese-Style Portobello Mushroom Buns
Makes 6 to 8 buns
- 6 to 8 ounces portabella mushrooms
- 1 package Chinese steamed buns (found in the refrigerator or freezer sections of Asian markets)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 to 2 scallions, shredded
- 1 handful peanuts, finely chopped
- Clean the portobello mushroom caps with a slightly damp towel. Remove the stems and slice the caps to 3/4 inch thick.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium heat. Sear the mushroom slices for about 1 minute on each side, being careful to no break each slice.
- Add the rice wine, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and water. Allow the mushrooms to cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until softened, adding more water if the pan gets too dry in the middle of the cooking. (Though the liquid should be absorbed by the mushrooms or evaporated by the end of the 5 minutes, leaving little or no sauce.)
- Meanwhile, steam the buns according to the instructions on the package, either in a steamer or in the microwave.
- Assemble the buns by putting 3 portobello slices in each bun and garnishing with shredded scallions and peanuts. Serve warm.