Living in so cal again has been wonderful except for one main thing missing from my life – mushrooms!! It’s been pretty tough for me living in a place without a distinct mushroom season, so I planned a destination mushroom hunting trip to Portland this last week to get my mushroom fix :) It was so fun to tromp around through the woods in the beautiful and wet conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately I missed out on finding any porcinis or chanterelles or matsutakes, but I did happen upon a relatively rare and special find Sparasiss radicata, commonly known as the cauliflower mushroom.
Sparassis radicata is a wood decay fungus that tends to be found on the ground under dead conifers. I have only found one other Sparassis in my life and they are very tasty and hearty so I was super excited to find it again! It was about 35 degrees F, raining, and hailing, so I definitely worked hard for my find, but looking at the huge smile on my face you can tell it was worth it :)
It was dark and rainy in the understory, which made it difficult to get a good photo, but you can tell that I’m super happy to finally have a giant edible mushroom in my hand.
The last time I found one of these was back in in 2013 in Mendocino, CA. I typically think of it as a mushroom that you need a relatively old growth forest to find, so it is not a mushroom you find very often. Again, you can see the huge smile the Sparassis puts on my face :)
Sparassis has a very unique texture and makes a great replacement for egg noodles in a stir fry. Since my friend Zoie who we are staying with is vegan we decided to make a vegan vegetable and tofu stir fry with Sparassis as the base. Sparassis takes a while to clean since it grows on the ground and can accumulate a ton of conifer needles in all of its crevasses. I started by washing the Sparassis very well in the sink and roughly chopping it and storing it in a bowl.
We first washed and chopped up all of the ingredients for the stir fry. We chose onions, garlic, ginger, carrots, red pepper, broccoli, and tofu, but you can be as creative and flexible as you would like with your stir fry ingredients! Once everything was chopped and ready to go, we heated the pan, added olive oil, then placed the roughly chopped onions and the chopped Sparassis to the pan.
I will warn you this is not a quick stir fry. It takes a while for the mushroom to get rid of all of its water and fully cook. The pan will start filling with water from the mushroom, and you will have to be patient while it evaporates so the mushroom can start to crisp up. The mushroom will have a fairly crunchy texture but it lends a nice meatiness to the dish. After 10-15 minutes, we added a ton of chopped garlic and fresh ginger, which infused into the mushroom and added a lot of flavor. Next, we added chopped broccoli.
Of course you can add any vegetable you want to your stir fry. We like lots of vegetables and color so we added red peppers next after the broccoli.
After the broccoli and red pepper cooked for ~10 minutes, we added thinly slivered carrots to the pan. Isn’t the stir fry beautifully colorful? We also had a separate pan for the tofu, which we stir fried in olive oil in its own pan to get a crispier outside.
In the meanwhile, Zoie whipped up a delicious sauce to add to the stir fry. We whisked together soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, a little bit of sugar, and a bit of sriracha and chile. Again, this dish is flexible so you can mix any flavors you like for this sauce. The world is your oyster mushroom :) We added the sauce and let the flavors meld for another few minutes. Finally, we were ready to serve!
We were all super enthusiastic and delighted at how well this dish came out. It was absolutely delicious! If you ever are lucky enough to come across as Sparassis at the farmer’s market or in the woods, go ahead and stir fry it up! Thanks Roo, Zoie, Kim, and Heather for joining me on an awesome Oregon mushroom hunting adventure :)