On a recent hike in the woods, Robin and my granddaughters made an amazing discovery. Within a stone’s throw of our farm house, they found a bountiful supply of oyster mushrooms!
If you’ve priced this woodland artwork at organic markets, you know oyster mushrooms are expensive. If you’re a cook, you also know how desirable they are in recipes.
With a plastic bag of the gourmet fungi in tow, she was excited about repeating a recipe she had once made. But we were at the farm and the recipe was in St. Louis. She’d have to wing it. Needed ingredients like: lemongrass (the great Thai/Vietnamese soup flavoring); ginger root; and wonton skins can’t be found in most home refrigerators. To make the dish required a trip to town. You might think of Rolla, Missouri, as a culinary outpost, but with a world-class science and technology school in town there’s an array of international foods available.
We purchased all the ingredients Robin could remember and we’re ready to assemble the dumplings when guests arrived. I had never worked with lemongrass and found the subtle, citrus flavor very pleasant and the mushrooms silky and buttery in texture.
As Robin brewed the aromatic broth, the mushroom hounds arriving for dinner joined in handcrafting the dumplings. After placing a dab of the mushroom mixture onto a wonton, it was sealed firmly, and rolled into a cute shape, ready to cook in the broth.
The wontons went into the lemongrass soup pot, bubbling gently on the burner. Ten minutes later the soup and dumplings were ladled into bowls and topped with cilantro and chopped green onions. Tah-dah! Easy and impressive. It was a cool evening and the mild, citrus-like broth warmed the innards. Lemongrass has long been thought to relieve pain, fever, and sore throats. And oyster mushrooms, the workhorse of fungi, supposedly improves immunity. A few sips and I felt well able to fend off any flu germ or virus lurking in my passageways. As we slurped down the last drop, we all agreed that whatever was in the original recipe, the soup didn’t suffer from any omissions. Robin has since found the recipe in Tal Ronnen book The Conscious Cook under the cumbersome title: Lemongrass Consommé with Pea Shoot and Mushroom Dumplings. As it turned out, she had omitted the pea shoots, substituted lime zest for lime leaves, and added shrimp, but had gotten the other ingredients right. Happily, it’s a versatile broth that adapts well to substitutions.
Now that we have a ready supply of oyster mushrooms, I’m eager to try this recipe again. The soup was easy and fun to make and as good as any I’ve had in local restaurants or Southeast Asia.