Ok, look. This isn’t the traditional “Korean fried chicken.” It isn’t fried with potato starch or glazed with a spicy sauce. However, this isn’t a traditional American “fried chicken” either (or “Kentucky fried chicken?”). It’s fried “chicken” with a Korean twist, if you will, like so much of my food. It’s really just a byproduct of a lack of impulse control. I can’t help adding Korean-y things to my food.
But, I thought you were vegan?
Now, let’s get something out of the way. This isn’t actually chicken. I would think that’d be obvious, but I can understand why the photo above might have you second guessing. Actually, when you taste this dish, you will think you’re hallucinating. That’s how good this recipe actually is. What are we using then? Seitan? TVP? Gardein? Nope. We are using the humble mushroom.
The Oyster Mushroom
The oyster mushroom, to be specific. These are sometimes referred to as “king oyster mushrooms” because they are big enough to span well beyond the size of a large hand. Why are they called “oyster” mushrooms? Well, I always thought it was because they smelled kind of seafood-y to me, but, in fact, they derived their name from their appearance. Their caps resemble oysters. Oyster mushrooms are a good source of vitamin D, protein, fiber, potassium, vitamin B6 and folate and can be found at most Asian grocery stores and farmers markets. The thing I LOVE about oyster mushrooms for this recipe are all the nooks and crannies. The irregular shape of the mushroom provide “hooks” for the breading, so that it doesn’t just slide right off when you dredge the mushrooms. This ensures a delightful crunch with each and every bite.
The Marinate & Dredge
This is the new hot dance move on TikTok.
In order to maximize the flavor of the “chicken,” I created a slightly unusual marinade that would not only tenderize the mushrooms (a bit), but also infuse it with a lovely umami before it was doused in flour. We add some lemon juice to the soy milk to create our buttermilk, but then, we also hit it with a little soy sauce. AHA!! BETCHA DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING!
In keeping with the theme, in lieu of paprika, I added gochugaru to my dredging mix, to give my “chicken” an extra kick.
Once you’ve finished mixing together all the dredge ingredients, coat the mushrooms in the dredge, making sure they are packed well with the mixture. Next, drop them into a pot of hot oil and cook them until both sides are crunchy and golden brown.
Quick Tips for Making Vegan Korean Fried “Chicken”
- Make sure to buy king oyster mushrooms and I left the stems intact. Some people say they are tough and chewy, but they turned out great for this recipe. Just make sure to clean the mushrooms with a damp towel.
- Allow the mushrooms to marinate for at least 5 minutes in the vegan buttermilk mixture, so they have some time to really absorb some of the flavors and grow tender.
- When dredging, make sure to really pack it in–you want the mixture to get into all those hard to reach places, because doing so will create more surface area for the breading.
- When frying, do not overcrowd the pan–it will make the “chicken” less crunchy and take forever to cook.
Vegan Korean Fried “Chicken”
- 1 cup soy milk
- 1/2 lemon
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 5 pieces king oyster mushroom
- Oil, for frying
Spicy Dredging Mix
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 tbsp gochugaru
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- Squeeze half a lemon into your soy milk, along with the soy sauce. This is your vegan buttermilk.
- Clean your mushrooms. Place them in the vegan buttermilk and set it aside.
- Mix together all the dredging ingredients.
- Heat your oil to about 350°F. If you don't have a thermometer, drop a panko crumb into the oil and if it immediately bobs to the surface, your oil is ready to cook in.
- When your oil is hot, take a mushroom piece covered in vegan buttermilk and drop it into the dredging bowl. Make sure to pack the dredging mix into the mushroom. Then gently shake off any excess before dropping it carefully into the hot oil.
- Add more pieces without crowding your pan. Cook each piece until both sides are deep golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Remove from oil and gently shake off any excess oil.