Let me say for the record: I have no desire to eat bacon. I prefer for pigs to keep their own bellies and backsides. However, I’m not at all opposed to having good ways of adding crispy, salty, savory, smoky goodness to my meals.
I know I go on about king oyster mushrooms a lot. I think they are an underutilized cultivated mushroom. I was playing with an extra one a few weeks ago, and tried taking thin slices of it and pan-frying it until crispy. Delicious! But a little bit one-note. The idea went on the back burner, and then I realized what was missing: a dry rub.
For today’s version, I kept it super simple: Maldon (aka the world’s greatest salt), pepper, sugar and smoked paprika. You could amp that up in any number of ways: brown sugar, chilis, coriander, coffee, cumin, garlic, tomato powder – whatever strikes your fancy. If you find that the formula I have below is a bit on the bitter side for you, halve the smoked paprika and increase the sugar.
I highly recommend a mandoline for slicing the mushrooms – unless you have Morimoto-level knife skills it will be hard to cut them to a consistent thickness by hand.
Once you’ve got the mushroom “bacon”, you can go nuts with what to do with it. Sandwiches, pasta, fried polenta, you name it. Think what omnivores do with bacon and it will give you plenty of ideas. The only caution is that it will lose crispness when exposed to moisture for long, so think about adding it at the last possible moment before serving.
King oyster mushrooms come in a variety of sizes; I only had small ones when I took the photo, so you are seeing 3-inch chips of “bacon”, but you can often find much longer ones.
Oh, and one random other note: if you would like to get your Herbivoracious fix on a Kindle, it is available there now as a very inexpensive subscription!
Vegan “Bacon” From King Oyster Mushrooms
Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and kosher
Yield: depends on size and quantity of mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon Maldon – use 1 1/2 teaspoons for any other kind of salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons smoke paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- King oyster mushrooms (however many you want)
- Vegetable oil for pan frying
- Slightly grind the salt to a finer texture. You can do this with your fingers or a mortar and pestle. In a small bowl, whisk together the Maldon salt, sugar, paprika and black pepper. Unless you are doing a lot of mushrooms, this will be more rub than you need, but you can save it.
- Slice the king oyster mushrooms lengthwise on a mandoline to about 2mm thickness. Rub both sides of each slice of the mushrooms with the dry rub mix (you probably won’t need all of it) and set aside for at least 15 minutes. Wipe off excess rub.
- Line a plate with paper towels. Heat a large skillet, preferably cast-iron over medium-high heat. Add a thin layer of vegetable oil. When it shimmers, add strips of mushroom in a single, sparse layer (working in batches as needed) and cook until golden brown (about 1 minute), then flip and brown the other side. Transfer to the paper towels. It will crisp up as it cools (just 20 seconds or so).