Pearl in Hiding: a plated dish

So this was one of the five dishes I made for my “Namie” pop-up dinner during the summer for my friends from 4Foodie(special shoutout to Kate and Victoria for the amazing photos from this!). Originally, it was just going to be three dishes, but I extended it to five, and this was a super last-minute(two days prior to the actual dinner) addition. I wanted to include either a pasta or a bread course in the progression, and settled on doing a dango, which is a poached mochi, so similar to a pasta or a dumpling in that manner. In terms of what I was going to pair that with, I wanted to go with lighter flavors, since three of the five courses had seafood in them, and one was the dessert, and make it very umami-forward, as a dango on its own is just a soft, chewy texture. So I opted for my favorite umami add-on, mushrooms! I made a dashi using dried mushrooms, being shiitake, porcini, and chanterelle, and also made a filling from the rehydrated dried mushrooms and miso paste to stuff into the dango with. I wanted the visual to resemble a pearl and an oyster, so that’s where the idea to use oyster mushrooms came from, and the onion petals resembled a clam shell, so it all just sort of fit together in that way!

With this dish, you have a rich mushroom dashi, a chewy dango stuffed with a miso-mushroom ragout, an oyster mushroom that has been dehydrated so that it is both crunchy and almost like a mushroom jerky in texture, and a poached onion petal to resemble a clamshell. It is 100% vegan, umami-forward, and just a fun dish to make either for a dinner party setting, or for family and friends at home! One of my favorite parts about eating this dish is cutting into the dango and seeing the mushroom ragout inside of it, just because it almost resembles the fish balls that you would see in shabu shabu that have cod roe inside of it! It’s definitely a fun, plant/fungi-based take on an Asian classic, while also being a subtle nod to both a pasta and soup course in a progressive menu tasting.

For the mushroom dashi:
3 dried shiitake mushrooms
3 dried porcini mushrooms
1 dried chanterelle mushroom
5g kombu
10g mushroom soy sauce
3 cups water

Bring all ingredients to a simmer until the mushrooms are completely soft and the liquid is reduced by 2/3. Strain out the mushrooms and reserve for the dango filling.

For the dango filling:
Reserved mushrooms from the dashi
2 teaspoons yellow miso paste
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon canola oil

Mince the mushrooms into smaller pieces and mix with the other ingredients. If the mixture is really wet, saute to remove any excess liquid. You want the mushrooms to have the texture of tempeh or barely wet cereal. Cool down the mushrooms before using, as a hot filling will cause the dango to weep and break apart.

For the dehydrated oyster mushrooms:
8 large black oyster mushrooms
a pinch of salt
canola oil

Roast the mushrooms on a sheet tray at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Saute in a pan with salt and oil to finish, and drain on a paper towel to remove any excess oil.

For the dango:
1 cup shiratamako
1/3 cup water
Dango filling

Mix the shiratamako with water to form your dough. Divide into 8 pieces. Roll out on piece into a flat disk and place in some of your filling(about 1 tablespoon). Fold the sides around the filling and roll gently to seal your dango dough into little balls around the filling. Boil these in hot, salted water for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until they float, then store in cold water until time to serve.

To garnish:
1/4 red onion, sliced into 1/2-inch thick petals
Borage flowers

Poach the onion petals in salted water for 2 minutes. Transfer into the dashi and warm up together. For plating, start with the dango, then garnish with the onion petals, oyster mushrooms, borage, and finish with the warm dashi.

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