In a bid to reduce my meat consumption, and to pacify a sudden, anxiety-induced pang for nuggets (I blame the pandemic, and Malaysia’s latest lockdown), I’ve found that lion’s mane mushroom makes excellent meatless nuggets. Just cut them up into two-to-three-inch chunks; batter them in a slurry of cornstarch, flour, garlic powder, and salt; and deep-fry them in oil for five minutes. Served with a sweet Thai chile sauce, or even just with good ol’ ketchup or honey mustard, they’ll give you the same satisfaction any nugget would, with an extra burst of meaty (yet meatless) umami to boot.
- Ignore this step if using fresh lion’s mane mushrooms. Place the water and kosher salt in a bowl, and stir until the salt completely dissolves. Submerge the dried lion’s mane into the brine, and leave it for at least 2 hours for it to fully hydrate. You can also let it soak overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, take the lion’s mane out of the brine and squeeze it firmly to remove the excess water.
- Cut the lion’s mane into nugget-size pieces (around 3 inches long and 1/2 inch thick). Place the pieces in a bowl together with 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch. Toss to coat the lion’s mane evenly.
- To make the batter, pour the remaining cornstarch into a bowl, then add in the all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, white pepper, and garlic powder. Give it a quick whisk to combine, then pour in the water, and continue whisking until the batter is smooth with no lumps. The batter should be thick and coat the back of a spoon.
- Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot or wok to 350°F (180°C). Depending on the size of your pot, you might need to deep-fry the lion’s mane in 2–3 batches. When the oil is up to temperature, dunk a batch of lion’s mane into the batter to coat completely, then deep-fry in the oil for 3–5 minutes, or until they reach that tinge of nugget goldenness. Make sure to flip them halfway through so they get evenly browned. When they’re done, remove them from the oil to a wire rack to allow any excess oil to drip off. Repeat for the rest of the lion’s mane.
- Serve the nuggets immediately with a side dip of ketchup or sweet chile sauce, or with your favorite nugget condiment.
Yi Jun Loh is a freelance writer and cook. An engineer by training, he immersed himself into the food industry right after graduating from Cambridge, learning to cook in Paris and then at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York. He is now based in Malaysia, obsessing over food culture and science through his blog Jun & Tonic.