Before I met Paul, I hated mushrooms. Couldn't stand their squishy texture and watery bite. But even though my partner Paul can't cook much of anything, he can saute the hell out of some mushrooms. He started making sauteed button mushrooms for our spaghetti nights (the only meal we ever eat together), and I realized mushrooms weren't so bad after all.
Fast forward to now: I love all kinds of mushrooms — bella, crimini, shiitake, oyster. But I'm still learning. There's a world of mushrooms out there to discover, and my friends at Dickey Farms, a local mushroom farming couple who grow all sorts of 'shrooms in Potts Camp, Mississippi, have introduced me to an especially awesome variety — Lion's Mane Mushrooms!
Isn't that crazy as hell? It looks like a weird sea creature with thousands of tiny arms. Or like a shaggy cartoon dog. The "mane" is soft like a fuzzy blanket, and the entire mushroom is tender as can be (no woody stems here, folks). Nichole Dickey gave me this mushroom to try when I visited their booth at the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market last weekend. They'll be selling their 'shrooms there on Saturdays for certain through November but on a week-by-week basis after that.
Anyway, I had no idea what to do with this crazy thing. Nichole said it had a lobster flavor, but I've never had lobster in my life. Or any seafood really (well, I did have fried shrimp in the school cafeteria in elementary once, but that was grody). So I did a little googling.
Turns out Lion's Mane mushrooms are like total superfoods! They're part of the "tooth fungus" group, which sounds like a nasty gum disease, but don't let that turn you off. Some research has shown that these mushrooms have compounds that can help regulate blood lipid levels and reduce blood glucose levels. And they have antioxidant effects.
Since I didn't know what people do with lobster meat, a search for "things to do with lobster" turned up a recipe for Lobster with Udon Noodles. I've honestly been craving those fat rice noodles for some time now, and Asian flavors are always a good idea with mushrooms. So I created a recipe for Udon Noodles with Lion's Mane, Snap Peas, and Spinach.
The little mushroom bits are kind of meaty, and since they're so soft, the crunchy snap peas pair well with them. And, well, the spinach was just because I need more greens in my life. I added Old Bay seasoning for a seafood-y taste, but I stuck with mostly Asian flavors (soy sauce, mirin, scallions). Here's an extreme close-up of the Lion's Man mushrooms in my noodle bowl.
And here's the recipe. Enjoy!
Udon Noodles with Lion's Mane, Snap Peas, and Spinach
1 12-ounce package udon noodles (cooked, dried, or semi-dried)
1 Tbsp. vegan margarine
1 1/2 cup snap peas, ends trimmed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Lion's Mane mushroom, torn into bite-sized pieces
3 cups baby spinach
2 Tbsp. mirin
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1-2 tsp. hot sauce
3 scallions, chopped
If using dried or semi-dried (shelf-stable but kind of soft) udon, bring water to boil in a stock pot. Add the noodles and boil for 7-8 minutes (semi-dried) or 10-12 minutes (dried). Drain water. If using cooked noodles, skip to the next step.
Heat margarine in a large non-stick skillet with sides. Add snap peas and saute 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and mushrooms, stir, and saute for another 5-7 minutes or until mushrooms soften. Add spinach and stir until it wilts (about 1-2 minutes).
Pour in mirin, soy sauce, Old Bay, and hot sauce (I used a homemade habanero sauce, but sriracha would be perfect). Stir and allow to cook for a minute or two.
Add noodles and scallions. Use tongs to toss noodles until they are coated and evenly distributed. Heat for a minute or so and remove from heat.