VEGAN KOREAN BBQ USING KING OYSTER MUSHROOM: “SAMGYUPSAL” BOWLS
A personal favorite of mine is samgyupsal, or Korean barbecued pig belly. As part of my effort to eat more plant-based, I’ve reworked my favorite porky dish into an entirely plant-based experience!
PORK CAN’T BE REPLACED, BUT IT’S PRETTY CLOSE!
However, this is a good approximation!
The shift to a plant-based diet has my enthusiastic support.
The flavor and texture of pork can’t be duplicated with simply vegetables, so I’m not going to lie to you about that. Pig fat is one of nature’s greatest riches, and there is just no substitute for it.
However, on the other hand…
Getting quite close to it now!
How? Another reason to be grateful for the versatile and delicious king oyster mushroom, as if I needed one! My mother makes Soy Butter King Oyster Mushrooms, and Sarah makes a Spicy King Oyster Mushroom Stir-fry, both of which incorporate it.
THE MAGIC OF LIQUID SMOKE
This recipe’s secret to resembling pork’s flavor and texture is twofold. Liquid smoke is the first to be discussed. This is a great vegan / plant-based ingredient to have on hand because it imparts the same satisfyingly smoky flavor as grilled meat.
It’s a clever trick to play on your brain, and a little goes a long way. Add some to the mushroom marinade and use sesame oil, honey, and salt to enhance the umami flavor of the mushrooms further.
What’s the result? Cooked over Korean BBQ charcoal, the pan-fried mushrooms take on a flavor similar to that of pork belly.
CONSCIOUSNESS OF TEXTURE
Secondly, cutting the mushrooms lengthwise against the grain is an effective technique. Cutting the mushrooms lengthwise will have a more pronounced flavor, much like a piece of pork belly with skin on it.
You can chop the mushrooms diagonally against the grain to make them more delicate. It’s all up to you! To me, the element of surprise that comes from slicing the mushrooms half lengthwise is very appealing.
The mushrooms can be sliced with a pair of scissors before you eat them, just like Korean BBQ restaurants do with their meats.
Lucky for us, Korean BBQ already includes plant-based ingredients.
The ssamjang, or hot bean paste, keeps vegan Korean BBQ from being a complete disaster. When paired with samgyupsal, it greatly enhances the experience and helps you forget the lack of meat in the dish.
You may make your ssamjang, but I prefer to buy the readymade one in the bright green tub from Korean cuisine site Maangchi.
Kimchi is the other star of this vegan Korean BBQ. Vegans should be sure to get kimchi that does not contain shellfish.
A Korean family owns a bodega near my apartment, and they sell homemade kimchi—one that is vegan and one that isn’t—and they’re both very friendly. It’s a tie! You can use any kimchi in this recipe if you’re not a devout vegan.
To accompany my grilled mushrooms, I whipped up a quick scallion salad à la banchan (a tiny side dish) in a Korean restaurant.
Sit back and watch it go when you combine the mushrooms, a few grilled onions, long hot green chilies, and garlic with a big metal spoon.
FOR THE BOWLS:
- 2 1/2 cups of cooked white rice(medium grain preferred)
- 2 large king oyster mushrooms
- 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil (plus additional for pan-frying)
- 2 tsp. of liquid smoke
- 3/4 tsp. of sesame oil
- 1/4 tsp. of sugar
- 1/4 tsp. of salt
- 1 pc. of small onion (sliced into 1 1/2 inch rounds)
- 2 pcs. of long hot green peppers
- 4-5 cloves of garlic (or to taste)
- 2 handfuls of green leaf lettuce (chopped into bite-sized pieces)
- 1-2 tbsp. of ssamjang (Korean BBQ dipping sauce)
- paejori (marinated scallion salad)
FOR THE PAJEORI (SCALLION SALAD):
- 8-10 scallions
- 1 tbsp. of light soy sauce
- 1 tsp. of sugar
- 1 tsp. of sesame oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp. of gochugaru (Korean hot pepper flakes; or to taste)
- 1 tbsp. of toasted sesame seeds
- Get your rice cooking in a rice cooker or on the stovetop before moving on to the next step.
- Next, prepare the scallion salad with pajeori. Scallions should be cut into 2-inch lengths and thinly julienned. Put the scallions in a bowl of ice water as you cut them. The onion flavor will be milder, and the curling will be improved as a result. Gather your other ingredients and set the scallions aside as you do so.
- Mushrooms should be sliced into 1-inch chunks. To make the mushrooms more delicate, slice them diagonally rather than lengthwise. Like pork belly, mushrooms that are chopped down to the grain will have a spicier, meatier flavor.
- Stir together 2 tbsp. oil, the liquid smoke, the sesame oil, the sugar, and the salt in a bowl. Mix and emulsify by whisking. Apply the marinade to the mushrooms by brushing them with it.
- Over medium-high heat, add enough oil to coat the bottom of a skillet or nonstick pan. A single layer of mushrooms should be added to the pan and browned on one side. Cook the other side until golden brown. To brown the onions, peppers, and garlic while flipping the mushrooms, put them in the pan with the mushrooms.
- Finish your scallion salad while that’s occurring. Shallots can be dried in a salad spinner or with a kitchen towel after draining. Serve immediately with a slurry of gochugaru and sesame seeds on top.
- Assemble your vegan Korean BBQ bowl when it’s done cooking to your satisfaction. Rice as the foundation, lettuce as a garnish, mushrooms and other vegetables, kimchi, and ssamjang paste as the finishing touches go into the bowl. Pajeori scallion salad can be garnished as desired. Everything should be mixed like bibimbap, so have fun with it!