Hot and sweet grey oyster mushrooms (beoseot gangjeong)

Move over tapas, Korean banchan are the new sharing plates. This sweet and spicy vegetable side dish makes great use of the grey oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus), which are a satisfyingly meaty winter edible

beoseot gangjeong made with grey oyster mushrooms
Grey oyster's meaty texture works well in this foraged version of an authentic Korean side dish

Oyster mushrooms are a familiar sight on supermarket shelves, which seems to make it a special thrill when you spot a flush of them scaling a decaying tree in a winter wood. Because they are a choice edible — meaty but with a delicate flavour — they are frequently served simply, lightly fried with some garlic. Texturally, however, they also make an excellent meat substitute, so are very versatile.

Banchan are vegetable side dishes that are served with most Korean meals and usually eaten mixed over a bowl of rice. While many Korean mushroom dishes use dried and re-constituted mushrooms, often shiitake, fresh ones can work just as well. Just be aware when frying that wild mushrooms can have a varied moisture content, so cooking times may need to be adjusted to suit. If you are unhappy with the texture, fry the mushrooms for longer, or you can dry them on baking parchment in a hot oven for around 5-10mins after initial frying.


Beoseot gangjeong is not wildly dissimilar in taste to sweet and sour, and the dish also utilises peppers, but this is hotter and also much less ersatz than a takeaway sauce. The dish uses the very common Korean ingredient gochujang, a fermented chilli paste, which is readily available in larger supermarkets. The flavour is difficult to replicate with alternative ingredients, so it is well worth investing in a pot.


A piece of grey oyster mushroom banchan held in chopsticks

Ingredients (serves four as a side dish as part of a main meal):

500g grey oyster mushrooms

2 peppers (red, green or a mix)

1 heaped tbsp cornflour

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp white wine vinegar (or any white vinegar eg rice wine or cider)

1 tbsp gochujang

2 tbsp mirin

1 tbsp honey

Vegetable oil for frying


Method

grey oyster mushrooms tossed in conflour

- Rinse the mushrooms, shake dry in a colander and then chop into even, bite-sized pieces


- Toss in a bowl with the cornflour until evenly coated and set aside


- Prepare the sauce by mixing the soy, vinegar, gochujang, mirin and honey in a bowl


- Add all the sauce ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil while stirring. Simmer over a medium-low heat for around 3-4 mins until thickened. Set aside.


Sauce for beoseot gangjeong being mixed in a bowl

- Heat the oil (you need it around 1cm deep) in a wok or heavy-bottomed pan, add the mushrooms one at a time and shallow fry until golden. If they become slimy or too oily, you can crisp them in a hot (220 deg) oven for 5-10min.


- Remove the mushrooms from the pan or oven and set aside on a plate on kitchen towel.


- Chop the peppers and add to a clean, dry frying pan or wok over a medium heat. Cook for a couple of minutes and then add the mushrooms. This will help distribute any excess oil.


- Stir in the sauce and continue heating for a minute or so until mixed and warmed through.


- Serve with other banchan and kimchi over a bowl of sushi rice.


Banchan served over sushi rice
Banchan served over sushi rice

Learn more about grey oyster or discover more about wild edibles and recipes on a foraging course


Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!