When I was a child, I had the privilege of growing up with a revolving door of family members visiting from overseas. One of my most special memories is when my mom’s brother came to stay with us for a summer. He had recently gone through a major surgery and had come to stay with us to recover. I bonded with him instantly. He was more than willing to play with me and tolerate all of my childhood antics, despite his recent surgery. He was kind, patient, loving, and so much fun to be around. I even insisted on sitting between him and my aunt every night for our family dinners just so we could keep the fun going! As he recovered, he was slowly able to eat more and more, and my parents were, of course, more than happy to keep cooking! He had a very adventurous palate and was willing to try anything, but his heart really rested with meaty and spicy foods. One day, my parents whipped up a mushroom and onion dish and served it to him; he was convinced that the dish had to have some sort of meat and was flabbergasted to learn it was only mushrooms. It quickly became his favorite vegetarian dish and my parents made it for him regularly. It especially made my vegetarian (mushroom hating) grandmother happy because she never loved seeing anyone eat meat!
As with most of our family’s dishes, this dish too relies on the wonderful deliciousness of my great-great grandmother’s garam masala. The technique is also the base to many recipes we make. Heat up oil with cinnamon sticks, cloves, and bay leaves. Sautee onions until they are nearly caramelized, add the Indian holy trinity of ginger/garlic/green chili, along with some spices, then add the mushrooms and finish with garam masala once the juices that the mushrooms release meld with the caramelized onion. While there are several steps to making this recipe successful, they go quickly, and the end product is absolutely delicious.
I’ve chosen to call this dish a “stew” rather than a stir fry due to the meatiness of the mushrooms. While this has been talked about over and over, it’s worth mentioning again that mushrooms are rich sources of umami. Umami is that mysterious meaty flavor that results from glutamic acid binding to receptors on the tongue. Mushrooms have a high quantity of glutamic acid as a free amino acid, and when they are cooked this quantity gets further concentrated as the water evaporates. I recently talked to my parents about this recipe and they told me that they had made it with portobello mushrooms cubed into 1 inch pieces and stated that the flavor was especially rich and flavorful. Part of this is due to mushrooms developing higher concentrations of their flavor compounds as they age, and portobello mushrooms are much older than the creminis I’ve used here. Please feel to use either! I hope you enjoy this vegetarian, meaty tasting Indian stew. It’s best served with some flat bread, but is also great with rice, inside of an omelette, baked into a frittata, or on top of chicken. Enjoy!
Garam Masala Mushroom and Onion Stew ~ Kanda ane Mushroom nu Shak
|Prep:||Cook:||Yield: serves 6||Total:|
An umami packed mushroom and onion stew rich with garam masala, chilis, and plenty of warm spices.
- 2 pounds cremini mushrooms, washed and quartered
- 3 medium onions, sliced into thin strips
- 2 Tbsp oil
- 2 3inch cinnamon sticks
- 5 cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1-1.5 tsp finely minced jalapeños (depending on how spicy you want it)
- 1 1/2 tsp finely minced ginger
- 1 1/2 tsp finely minced garlic
- 1 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp garam masala
- Cilantro to garnish
- Heat the oil in the bottom of a large wok or large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When shimmering, add the cinnamon sticks, cloves, and bay leaves. Swirl to incorporate with the warm oil.
- When aromatic, and the cinnamon has slightly darkened in color, add the sliced onion. Stir well to incorporate into the oil. Allow the onions to cook, stirring every few minutes until golden and translucent. Add the jalapeños, ginger, garlic, red chili powder, turmeric, and salt. Stir well to incorporate. Allow to cook for a few more minutes until very aromatic.
- Add the mushrooms and stir well to fully incorporate. Cover and cook, stirring every few minutes, until the mushrooms have shrunk in size and released plentiful juices. Uncover, turn up the heat, and simmer until the juices thicken slightly. Add the garam masala and stir to fully incorporate. Taste, and add salt as needed. Turn off the heat. Garnish with cilantro and serve.
Feel free to substitute portobello mushrooms for cremini mushrooms. If you do, cut them into 1 inch cubes. The flavor is meatier and richer!
Goes well with: rice, flat bread, in an omelette or frittata, served on top of a meat.