I’ve been mulling over this recipe for a year. Chinese New Year is coming and I’ve been dusting over old recipes and thinking about what to cook for the celebration. Celebrating Chinese New Year is no walk in the park – there is an immense amount of feasting during this season and we usually visit different branches of the family over the course of 2-3 days. As a family, we’ve streamlined our visits over meals like lunch and dinner. Most of our stops are in various relatives’ homes that usually have giant spreads of food available. However there is the occasional meal that is done potluck style and so that’s why I’ve been mulling over recipes.
Braising is a combination method of cooking that uses high heat searing or sautéing first followed by slow simmer to introduce tenderness and flavour to the dish. The pressure cooker actually cuts the cooking time – instead of a simmer, the high pressure breaks down the food fibers quickly and surprisingly also has a decent flavour infused in the meat or whatever food that is being cooked.
Braised mushrooms is a quintessentially Chinese New Year dish. This is because one of the ingredients is fatt choy or black moss, which is a kind of ground algae that when named in Cantonese, sounds like “striking it rich”. Word sounds play it big among superstitious Chinese – for example one of the wishes we greet people with 年年有余 (niannianyouyu) is also represented by fish (鱼 Yu) and so fish is a must-have at CNY meals.
The truth is that I love this dish simply because it sits cosily in my food vocabulary. Growing up having this every Chinese New Year means that it has become a necessity in my subconscious each time the season comes by. The mushrooms are usually sold dried and giant bags are sold in supermarkets in the run up to Chinese New Year. And these bags are handy because the mushrooms are easy to hydrate and only requires soaking in hot water.
Last Chinese New Year I had every intention to make this dish but I had bought the dried mushrooms and fatt choy but then forgot all about it in the busyness of the season. Of course the dried mushrooms got used up along the way but I found the dried fatt choy recently and was triggered to use it up.
I decided to use the Instant Pot for this dish because it really saves time from the long mandatory 2-3 hour simmer to get the dish flavourful and the mushrooms succulent. There is a wonderful umami flavour to the dish and probably needs to be eaten all year long!
Instant Pot Braised Mushrooms
- 15-16 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 8 dried scallops
- 10g dried fatt choy (“hair vegetable”)
- 1 inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 cup of chicken broth
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp Chinese wine (Hua Tiao Jiu)
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- 1 tsp sugar substitute
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- 1 tbsp peanut oil
- 1 bunch of coriander (optional)
- Boil some water and soak the mushrooms in hot water in a bowl. In a separate bowl, pour a cup of hot water over the scallops. Soak for about 30 minutes.
- Cut the stems off the mushrooms and discard. Toss the mushrooms with the grated ginger and set aside.
- Mix the oyster sauce, light and dark soy sauce, sesame oil, Chinese wine, white pepper, sugar substitute, 1 cup of chicken broth, 1 cup of the scallops soaking liquid and 1 cup of mushroom soaking liquid.
- Turn in the sauté mode of the Instant Pot. Add the peanut oil in the inner pot. Sauté the mushrooms for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the braising liquid and make sure all the mushrooms are submerged.
- Turn off the sauté mode. Seal the Instant Pot and valve. Put in manual pressure cooker mode for 30 minutes.
- Wash the fatt choy.
- When done, do a quick pressure release. Put back on sauté mode. Add the fatt choy and stir and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle the xanthan gum over the gravy and stir vigorously for 2-3 minutes to thicken the braising liquid.
- Serve in a casserole dish. Garnish with some sprigs of coriander.