Spring is here and seasonal mushrooms are popping up everywhere, including morels, some of my favorites. I first tried these tasty mushrooms not too long ago. Once I found out how pricey they could be, l knew why I had never heard of them before. I had to look up what they're called in Chinese: "lamb tripe" because of their crinkly appearance. A friend of mine who dislikes lamb even thinks morels smell like lamb. Well, more for me! I absolutely love the texture and flavor, and have learned a lot about its health benefits. These meaty, earthy, sweet and nutty wonders of nature contain the highest amount of vitamin D among edible mushrooms. They are rich in potassium, zinc and iron. Many Chinese people believe it helps with digestion, strengthens the immune system, combats fatigue and improves quality of sleep.
We are lucky to live on the North Coast, where morels grow in abundance. During the spring, you can find them at the North Coast Co-op stores and farmers markets, call your mushroom hunter friends or go out and forage them yourself. This season seems like bountiful one. I managed to get morels a few times at the local stores in May. Then last week my friend foraged some beautiful high mountain black morels for us. I made a variety of dishes out of them: putting them in soup with chicken and Chinese herbs, stir frying them with garden vegetables, cooking them with braised beef and stuffing them with pork and shrimp. I also dried some.
The stuffed morels here are appealing for a dinner gathering. They are truly delicious, healthy, fresh and light. The recipe is simple to make at home. The recipe is versatile, too, and by substituting tamari for the soy sauce, can be made gluten free. If you have a favorite vegetarian or vegan dumpling stuffing, you can swap it in for the meat filling and use the same cooking method.
Steamed Stuffed Morels
8 to 10 large fresh morels
For the filling:
1/2 pound shrimp, finely chopped
1/3 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon minced ginger
¼ cup green onion, white parts only, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
¾ cup liquid from steaming the mushrooms
Green onion, chopped for garnish
Halve the mushrooms, clean and drain them well in a colander before patting gently with a paper towel.
Place all the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix them well with your hands. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for half an hour or more to allow the flavors to meld.
When you're ready to steam, stuff each morel half with 2 teaspoons of filling or as much as the mushroom will hold. Place the morels on a heatproof plate, arranging them spaced apart. Position a wire rack or a pair of wooden chopsticks at the bottom of a pot and add 1 cup of water to the bottom of the pot and place the plate with mushrooms inside. Bring the pot to a boil, then cover and steam the mushrooms for 12 to 15 minutes.
Remove the mushrooms from the pot and arrange them on a serving plate, reserving the liquid from the steaming plate.
In a small sauce pan, make the sauce. Carefully pour the liquid from the steaming plate, about ¾ cup, into the sauce pan. In a saucer, combine 1 teaspoon of oyster sauce and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, mixing well before adding it to the cooking liquid. Cook over low heat, stirring until it thickens to a silky sauce. Pour the sauce over the mushrooms and garnish with the green onions. Serve with rice.
You can find Home Cooking with Wendy Chan (she/her) classes benefitting local charities on Facebook.