Chinese Homestyle Black Pepper Portobello Mushrooms

A plant-based play on the classic black pepper beef.
A plant-based play on the classic black pepper beef.

Versatile, sizeable, and hefty, portobello mushrooms make a fine and satisfying substitute for meat in so many dishes, including this classic Chinese one.

If you’re a fan of black pepper beef, then you will much enjoy “Black Pepper Portobello Mushrooms,” a plant-based play on the classic that’s absolutely delicious.

The recipe is from “Chinese Homestyle” (Rock Point, 2022), of which I received a review copy.

The cookbook is by Maggie Zhu, a New York food writer and creator of the Omnivore’s Cookbook blog.

It’s a collection of 90 plant-based Chinese recipes that are a breeze to make. They’re perfect for anyone who’s vegetarian or vegan or for any home cook who wants to add a veggie-centric dish to a family-style spread.

Get your chopsticks at the ready for everything from “Baked Crispy Tofu Nuggets,” “Char Siu Baos” (made with button mushrooms instead of pork), and “Egg-Less Egg Drop Soup” (with yuba sheets standing in for the strands of eggs) to “Three-Cup Scrambled Tempeh” and “Creamy Red Bean Ice Pops.”

The portobello mushrooms caps get sliced for this recipe. I took the extra step beforehand of using a spoon to scrape out the black gills because I think it gives a nicer presentation.

The mushrooms get stir-fried with garlic and onions, as well as sliced red and green bell peppers. I’m not the biggest fan of green bell peppers, so I used an orange one instead. The recipe also said to cook the onions and peppers for 20 seconds, but I thought it took closer to 90 seconds, so I added that to the recipe.

Incredibly savory tasting, and meaty in texture, thanks to the portobellos.
Incredibly savory tasting, and meaty in texture, thanks to the portobellos.

A slurry of water and cornstarch gets stirred together with oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, sugar, and plenty of coarsely ground black pepper. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper, but you could easily add more if you like. After all, you want the deep warmth of pepper to really be at the forefront of this dish.

Pour this liquid mixture into the hot pan. After a few seconds, it will thicken and coat everything deliciously.

It’s a surprisingly meaty-tasting dish full of umami and that distinctive peppery finish.

Serve with steamed rice, and then pat yourself on the back for not ordering takeout instead.

This easy stir-fry dish is one you're sure to make again and again.
This easy stir-fry dish is one you’re sure to make again and again.

Black Pepper Portobello Mushrooms

(Serves 4)

12 to 16 ounces portobello mushrooms, stems trimmed, gills removed (optional), and caps cut in half and then sliced 1/4-inch thick

2 tablespoons vegetarian oyster sauce

2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper or to taste

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons peanut oil (or vegetable oil), plus more if needed

1 teaspoon minced ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 white onion, sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 red bell pepper, sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 green bell pepper, sliced 1/2-inch thick

In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup of water with the oyster sauce, wine, light and dark soy sauces, cornstarch, sugar, black pepper, and salt for the sauce. Stir until the cornstarch is dissolved.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, stir a few times to coat with oil, and then spread the mushrooms into an even layer. Let cook undisturbed until the bottoms are lightly browned, then flip over and cook until both sides are browned and any liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the mushrooms to a large plate.

The pan should still have a bit of oil in it. If not, drizzle in 1 teaspoon and turn the heat to medium. Add the ginger and garlic and cook and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the white onion and peppers and cook and stir for 20 to 90 seconds.

Stir the sauce again to make sure the cornstarch is dissolved, then pour it into the skillet. Immediately stir with a spatula and cook until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, a few seconds. Add the mushrooms back into the pan and quickly stir a few times to coat everything with the sauce. Remove from the heat.

Transfer the contents of the pan to a large serving plate and serve hot.

Adapted from “Chinese Homestyle” by Maggie Zhu

Another Chinese-Style Mushroom Recipe To Enjoy: Steamed Tofu and Trumpet Mushrooms with Ginger, Scallion, and Soy

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