Oyster Mushroom “Calamari” (vegan)

MeeT on Main makes killer vegan food. One of the best dishes there is the Oyster Mushroom Calamari. They’re definitely onto something because oyster mushrooms have a chewy, meaty texture that almost perfectly replicates the real thing. I’ve wanted to try my own vegan calamari for some time now, not only because it’s absolutely delicious, but I had told my uncle Gord about it a while ago since I think it would be a fun addition to a Greek meal when we can eventually get together again!

Unfortunately, oyster mushrooms can be on the expensive side. But I finally caught a break! My dad brought me over a large bag of beautiful oyster and portabella mushrooms last night – no joke – look at all of them! So I finally had a chance to experiment in the kitchen. While these weren’t exactly like MeeT’s, they are very delicious!

Now while MeeT on Main uses king oyster mushrooms, I used just regular oyster mushrooms. If you can get your hand on king oysters, you can cut the stem into circles and remove the middle to make them look like actual calamari, but because these have smaller, more tender stems on them, I was able to simply pull the mushrooms apart by hand into strips – no knife needed!

I used a simple batter that I have often used in the past to fry other goodies (cheese and veggies, yumm), but if you have a favourite batter that you like, go ahead and use it! This is my preference as it has a light, airy texture to it from the baking powder.

The hardest part of this is the frying. I normally don’t deep fry in my apartment as it’s quite messy, but hey it’s worth it once in a while! I used my cast iron skillet and poured in just enough oil that it would barely cover the mushrooms. Once the underside of the mushrooms are golden brown, I use a slotted spoon or tongs to flip them over and get the other side all crispy and delicious. Once the first batch is done, I use the slotted spoon to put them on a paper towel lined plate to drain and I sprinkle them with a pretty decent pinch of salt. Since these are done in batches, you can keep the previous batches warm in the oven (remember to remove the paper towel!!) if you are cooking a lot of mushrooms! Cold soggy mushrooms are not as appealing, which means these don’t make good leftovers. But you won’t have any anyways!

I like to serve these with my Tzatziki which you can totally make vegan, or a spicy vegan mayo would be equally as delicious…and a sprinkle of lemon juice of course!

Uncle Gord if you’re reading this (and I know you are!), I cannot wait until we can make this together! I would love to serve a platter of dolmades, pickled eggplant, hummus, pita bread, fresh veggies, pepperoncini’s, marinated tofu and some of these! I hope that sounds good to everyone else as well – is anyone else’s mouth drooling?

Now I couldn’t eat all of these on my own, but luckily I have friends in my building that are more than willing to sample my food – two carnivores – and they loved it! It’s perfect for meat eaters and veggie eaters alike!

This is a great vegan appetizer and treat, it’s:

  • Easy to make;
  • Vegan;
  • The batter uses ingredients you likely already have on hand;
  • Crispy, light and chewy (just like real calamari!);
  • To the table in under 30 minutes;
  • Deliciously dippable, pick your fav dip!;
  • Made with yummy earthy mushrooms, so it’s sort of healthy…right?
  • Indulgent, flavourful and delicious!

Oyster Mushroom “Calamari” (vegan)

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. paprika
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup water (I use closer to 3/4 cup, I like a thinner batter)
  • 4 medium sized oyster mushrooms
  • High temperature oil for frying (safflower, coconut, veggie oil etc. NOT olive oil.)
  • Salt to sprinkle
  • Fresh lemon wedges, to garnish
  • Your favourite dip, to serve

In a cast iron pan (at least a couple inches deep) add about 1″ of oil to the pan and start heating up. You’ll need the oil to be hot before adding the mushrooms.

Pull the mushrooms apart into long strips. If you are lucky enough to have king oyster mushrooms, slice the stem into circles and remove the middle and slice the tops. For regular oyster mushrooms, just pull them apart with your hands.

Combine the flour, baking powder, spices in a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the water slowly until the consistency is like a pancake batter (I used closer to 3/4 cups but it’s your preference!).

Coat the mushroom strips in the batter and drop one by one in the hot oil*, making sure the mushrooms don’t touch each other.

*To check if the oil is hot enough, stick the end of a wooden spoon into the oil. If you see  bubbles form around the wood and they start to float up, your oil is ready. If it is bubbling hard, the oil is too hot; let it cool a bit and try again.*

Once the underside is golden brown, flip over and cook until both sides are crunchy and golden.

Using a slotted spoon, take them out and put them on a paper tower lined plate to absorb the extra oil. Sprinkle with salt. Continue cooking in

Serve with lemon wedges and your favourite dipping sauce!! Enjoy right away!

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