When my grandmother cooked our family's annual Chinese New Year dinner, there was always a dish of braised shiitake mushrooms, dried oysters, and fat choy (a type of black moss) over a bed of baby bok choy. The kids would always giggle because the black moss looked like hair, which symbolizes prosperity for the coming year. I always looked forward to the tender mushrooms, which soaked up the sweet, savory braising liquid and helped balance out the other richer dishes on the table, but had never attempted to make it on my own.
Turns out it's not a difficult dish at all! Here's the version my mom recently passed down to me, simplified but still tasty enough to pull off for your own Lunar New Year or weeknight dinner.
Selecting Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
The core ingredients of this dish are the mushrooms and bok choy. While the dried oysters and dried moss are traditional additions, they can be hard to track down outside of Chinatowns or Asian grocery stores, so we've omitted them here.
When selecting dried shiitake mushrooms, look for large, whole caps. My mother also insists that price is a sign of quality and that the more expensive mushrooms cook more quickly and have more flavor, so get the nicest mushrooms you can afford.
Blanching Bok Choy
While regular white-stemmed bok choy can certainly be used here, baby bok choy, sometimes labeled Shanghai bok choy, is preferred for its lime-green stems and sweet flavor. Blanching them and then putting them in an ice bath before serving helps to preserve their vibrant color and keeps them from getting too soggy once the mushrooms and sauce are ladled over. While this dish is a Lunar New Year dinner staple, it can be part of a weeknight dinner and is perfect with a big bowl of steamed rice.
Braised Shiitake Mushrooms with Baby Bok Choy
dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in room-temperature water overnight
low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
regular or vegetarian oyster sauce
tamari or soy sauce
toasted (Asian) sesame oil
Shaoxing rice cooking wine or dry sherry
minced fresh peeled ginger
baby bok choy (about 6 medium heads)
Remove the mushrooms from the water and squeeze the excess liquid out. Trim off the stems; set aside.
Place the broth, oyster sauce, tamari or soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and rice cooking wine or sherry in a small bowl and stir to combine; set aside.
Heat the oil over high heat in a wok or large skillet until shimmering. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the chicken broth mixture and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer, flipping the mushrooms every 15 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender, 30 to 45 minutes total. About 15 minutes before the mushrooms are ready, prepare the bok choy.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, cut each head of bok choy in half through the stem to keep the leaves together. Wash and drain well. Prepare a large bowl of ice water; set aside.
When the water is boiling, add the bok choy and blanch until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain through a colander, and then transfer the bok choy immediately to the ice water bath. Let sit for 1 minute, then transfer back to the colander and drain well. Transfer the bok choy to a round serving plate, arranging them in a single layer with the leaves pointed toward the center; set aside.
When the mushrooms are ready, place the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl and stir until the cornstarch is fully dissolved. Add to the mushrooms and cook uncovered until the sauce is thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Arrange the mushrooms over the bok choy and pour the sauce over the mushrooms.
Vegetarian: To make this dish vegetarian, use vegetarian oyster sauce or mushroom stir-fry sauce and vegetable broth.
Gluten-free: To make this dish gluten free, use gluten-free oyster sauce and tamari.
Make ahead: The mushrooms can be braised a few days ahead and refrigerated. Reheat and add in the cornstarch when ready to serve.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Recipe adapted from Louisa Yue.