This is a simple vegetarian adaptation of a traditional chicken-rice-mushroom dish my mother often made when I was a child. It remains a favourite of mine. One must properly appreciate the mushroom which, in the words of a discriminating scholar, ‘belongs to that category of plants used in cooking whose main function is to add less flavour than the spices and herbs, less bulk than the real vegetables, and to absorb differentially the flavours of the dish, in order to bring out, by subtle chemistry, the highest and most delicate tastes’. Once you begin to think of mushrooms in this way and to use them accordingly, all mushroom dishes take on a special charm and flavour. Save the water in which the dried mushrooms have been soaked, as they give an additional earthy flavour to the cooked rice.
Soak the dried mushrooms in the very hot water for 20 minutes until soft. Remove them with a slotted spoon and save the liquid. Squeeze the excess liquid from the mushrooms and remove and discard the stalks. Cut the caps into quarters. Cut the button mushrooms into quarters.
Heat a wok or large frying-pan and add the oil. When hot, add the spring onions, salt and button mushrooms and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Put in the dried mushrooms and stir-fry for another minute or until all the liquid has evaporated. Remove the mixture and set aside.
Add the mushrooms, soy sauce and mushroom liquid to the rice in a pan and bring to the boil. Continue boiling until most of the surface liquid has evaporated. This should take about 15–20 minutes. At this point, cover the pan with a very tight-fitting lid, turn the heat as low as possible and let the rice cook undisturbed with the mushrooms for 15–20 minutes.
Turn onto a platter and serve at once.
© 1995 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.