Over at my blog, The Yum Yum Factor, one of my favourite things to do is to mash up different types of cuisines and ingredients, creating my own style of “fusion” cooking. Living in Toronto, I have access to every type of restaurant and grocery store imaginable and over the years I and have found that almost all of these different cuisines have overlapping ingredients that allow for some tasty experimentation.
Lately, one of my favourite snacks is something called KFC - no, not THAT KFC. I’m talking about this Korean Fried Chicken, or Dakgangjeong, that has become all the rage in North America via Seoul. You get a whack of double fried, shatteringly crisp chicken pieces that have been tossed in an addictive, sticky, sweet and spicy red sauce, topped with chopped scallion and sesame seeds. A dish of pickled turnip is always served alongside so you grab a box of wet wipes and you are good to go.
When Mushrooms Canada asked me to come up with a recipe for their blog, I set out to transform that dish into something that everyone could enjoy, including my vegetarian loved ones. One of my most popular recipes of all time has been my Oven Fried Korean Drumsticks so, basically, I wanted the spicy Korean fried chicken experience, but hold the chicken. I was hungry and also wanted to eat a sandwich so the KFP was born.
A nice, plump portobello mushroom cap provides the perfect vehicle for this sandwich. Since it has a nice, meaty texture, it can hold up to the deep frying and still retain it’s shape and it’s the perfect size for a nice, crusty bun. After lots of experimentation, I came right back to the simplest breading technique in the end. The panko crust stays crispy, even after it cools off and has been tossed in the sauce and the addition of sesame seeds gives a great nuttiness to the mushroom. A buttery, crusty bun is the perfect base while we retain the scallion in the form of a mild mayo, the pickled cucumber replaces the turnip and a touch of kimchi just puts the whole thing over the top.
Spicy Korean Fried Portobello Sandwich - KFP by The Yum Yum Factor
Makes 4 sandwiches
4 large portobello mushroom caps, wiped clean
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp kosher salt and a few grinds black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup panko
2 tbls sesame seeds
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 garlic cloves. grated
1” piece of ginger, grated
1/4 cup *gochujang
2 tbls dark soy sauce
1 tbls rice wine vinegar
3 tbls *brown rice syrup (or corn syrup)
2 tbls ketchup
1 tbls sesame oil
1/2 english cucumber, very thinly sliced
about a 3” length of daikon radish, very thinly sliced (you can sub in regular radish, until you have about 1/4 cup)
4 tbls sugar
1 tbls salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
For sandwiches: 4 crusty Portugese or Calabrese buns, *kimchi (optional)
You can make the gochujang sauce, mayo and pickle ahead of time but don’t make the veggie pickle too far in advance or you lose the crunch - 1 hour at most.
To make the pickle, heat the vinegar until warm in a pot or in the microwave and stir in the sugar and salt and keep stirring until dissolved completely and set aside to cool. Put the daikon and cucumber in a shallow dish and cover with the vinegar, and let it sit, stirring from time to time, until you need them for the sandwiches.
To make the mayo, chop the scallions and put them, with the mayo, in a food processor and whiz till smooth. Set aside
Mix all of the ingredients for the gochujang sauce together in a food processor or blender and whiz until well mixed. Set aside.
Make your dredge station: 1 shallow bowl with flour, salt and pepper, 1 shallow bowl with egg and then the third shallow bowl with panko and sesame seeds.
Roll each mushroom cap in the flour until completely coated, give it a shake and then coat it in the egg. Let the excess drip off before putting it in the bowl of panko, turning it around in the crumbs until it’s completely covered and remove to a rack set over a baking sheet.
Repeat until all four are breaded.
Meanwhile, you are heating a deep pan or a pot with 3” of vegetable oil over med high heat until it reaches about 350-370F. To test, you can put a couple of panko crumbs in the oil and it should start sizzling right away and turn brown immediately. Carefully lower a mushroom cap into the oil and deep fry for 3-4 minutes, until really golden brown, turning occasionally. How many you cook at once will depend on the size of the pan - don’t crowd them.
When they are done, remove them back to the baking rack to drain.
Now, cut all of your crusty buns in half , butter them and toast them, either under the broiler or on a grill pan.
Heat the gochujang sauce for about 45 seconds in the microwave to soften it up. If you really like spicy food, carefully toss each mushroom cap in some sauce until coated. Otherwise, you will just drizzle some sauce on the mushroom when you construct the sandwich.
Smear some scallion mayo on the bottom bun and put the mushroom cap on top (if you didn't coat in sauce, drizzle the gochujang on top).
Add a layer of pickled cucumber and daikon.
Spread a spoonful of kimchee on the very top.
Top with the cap of the bun and dig in.
*brown rice syrup, gochujang and kimchi can all be found at any Korean or Japanese grocery store or online
The flavours in the sandwich are incredible! This is such a fun way to bring fusion cooking into your own kitchen. Go ahead, experiment for yourself!!