Thailand has some of the most incredible food in the world. I recently traveled there with my father and had many heavenly culinary experiences. One of the more notable delicacies was – and I know it sounds strange – ‘mushroom salad’.
We were visiting Hua Hin and, in typical Whale-family style, staying somewhat off the beaten track. Hua Hin in general is more touristy than I’d like, but being further down the coast opened up some less-populated gems. One of these was a restaurant, Paa Sao Restaurant Kao TaKiab. My father played it safe by getting Pad Thai; I went rogue and ordered crispy squid and mushroom salad.
This was definitely the dish we talked about most after the trip. It was groovy! Umami, spicy, and zingy, our tastebuds exploded. They used a variety of mushrooms and a few extra vegetables – I tried to taste and decipher as many as I could.
Since returning to New Zealand, I’ve experimented with recreating the dish many times. Although not the same as the original, I’m pretty happy with my version. You can use whichever mushrooms you choose – I like a mixture. It can be difficult to source them in supermarkets here, but a trip to an Asian grocery will sort you out. You can also add dried mushrooms (soaked in boiling water for 10-15 minutes before use) . . . or tinned! I know it sounds feral but I promise it isn’t as bad as it sounds!
Fish sauce is a pretty important staple seasoning in Thai cooking. However, if you don’t swing that way, you can swap in vegan fish sauce, coconut aminos, tamari, or soy sauce. I wouldn’t recommend omitting it altogether since you need that salty umami!
One more note – when I ate it in Thailand, it wasn’t hot. I don’t tend to wait very long before tucking in but, if you have the time, you can let it cool to room temperature. In any case, you don’t want to be eating it piping hot. The heat should really be coming from your chilli. I sometimes make this with a spoonful of crispy chilli in oil (the stuff in a jar which you can buy from Asian grocery stores). It changes the flavour from Thai to Thai-Chinese fusion, but I love it all the same!
This recipe can be gluten-free, grain-free, egg-free, nut-free, dairy-free, and vegan.
Serves 2-4 people
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
– 1 Tablespoon neutral-flavoured oil
– 1 brown onion, sliced
– 1 carrot, sliced
– 1-2 chillies, sliced (depending on preference; deseeded if desired)
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 knob ginger, sliced thinly
– 5-6 cups of mixed mushrooms (see above)
– 1 large tomato, chopped (or 1/2 tin chopped tomatoes)
– large handful beansprouts
– 2 Tablespoons soy sauce or tamari, to taste
– 1-2 Tablespoons lime juice, to taste
– 1/2-1 Tablespoon fish sauce, to taste (see above for vegan options)
– 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes, to taste
– 1/2-2 teaspoons granulated stevia, to taste
– crispy chilli in oil, optional (see above)
– fancy lettuce to serve, optional
1. Heat the oil in a wok (or large frying pan) over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot and fry until beginning to soften. Throw in the chillies, garlic, and ginger; fry until fragrant.
2. Increase the heat again and add your mushrooms. Fry until softened before adding the beansprouts and tomato.
3. At this stage you want to season and begin tasting! Sprinkle in your sauces and chilli flakes. If you want it saltier, add more fish sauce and soy sauce. If you want it sourer, splash in a bit more lime. Not spicy enough? Get friendly with those chilli flakes! Although I don’t, some like their Thai food quite sweet, so adjust accordingly.
4. Remove from heat immediately (please don’t overcook those beansprouts!). Let cool slightly and serve with fancy lettuce on the side if you’re after some fresh crunch. This mushroom salad can be eaten with rice as a main, or as a side alongside other (preferably) Asian dishes. Enjoy! 🙂
Very happy to see a new recipe – looks delicious and will be very definitely putting it on our dinner menu in the near future!