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‘The Weekly Veg’: Hoisin mushroom buns

<p>Junior Shea Frawley (left) and junior Anna Szczepaniak (right) enjoy hoisin mushroom buns.</p>

Junior Shea Frawley (left) and junior Anna Szczepaniak (right) enjoy hoisin mushroom buns.

This week on “The Weekly Veg,” allow me to introduce you to a food I myself just learned about: mushroom hoisin buns.

Hoisin sauce is a thick, salty and sweet Cantonese concoction; though its name comes from the Chinese word for seafood, most hoisin sauces nowadays are actually vegetarian or sometimes vegan, and it pairs deliciously with vegetables.

My first memory of hoisin was over this past winter break when my mom ordered hoisin mushroom buns from a meal prep service. From the first bite, I was hooked — sweetness, saltiness and that distinct mushroom flavor exploded together in my mouth.

Plus, mushrooms are my favorite food, and if I hear anyone downing on mushrooms, we’re going to have some words. I love these things.

Naturally, when I stumbled across a hoisin mushroom bun recipe online, I had to make it for my next edition of “The Weekly Veg.” 

This is a fairly easy recipe, and a quick one, too — it only takes about 20 minutes. 

However, you will have to hunt down some of the ingredients. The hoisin sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil can easily be found in the “Asian Foods” aisle at Kroger, but the buns were a little harder to track down, and I ended up having to go to Asia Market across the street to find them.

A little side note: Asia Market is a fantastic place. I had never stepped foot inside, but they have so many different foods, snacks and drinks that I know I’ll have to go back sometime. A very nice woman working the front helped me to find the Wei-Chuan lotus leaf buns, which were as similar as I could find to steamed bao in Oxford, in the freezer section. If you end up making this recipe and are looking for the buns, that’s the place to go. 

As for spices, smoked paprika and Chinese five-spice are all you’ll need. A fresh veggie crunch in this recipe is provided by the cucumbers and the green/spring onions.

The strangest ingredient in this recipe? Maple syrup — but it blends perfectly with the other sauces and spices to create a sweet and tangy mixture for your mushrooms.

Some changes that I made: I like my mushroom buns dripping with sauce, so I actually doubled the amount of the sauce mixture in which I baked the mushrooms. Also, green and spring onions are apparently different things — you learn something new every day — and I couldn’t find spring onions at Kroger, so I just went with green onions instead, which are almost identical anyway. 

Oyster mushrooms on their own are also impossible to find at the Oxford Kroger, but the Kroger gourmet mushroom mix has some oyster mushrooms in it, and I found that the mix — when sliced thinly — worked just fine. 

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And, of course, instead of making the recipe’s hoisin sauce, I just bought a bottle of Lee Kum Kee hoisin instead. It’s a lot easier than finding prunes, trust me.

Here is this simple recipe’s lone problem: it’s a lot more prep work than I thought. I spent more time slicing mushrooms and green onions than I did actually cooking them. Though slicing the onions is unavoidable, I’d recommend just chopping the mushrooms instead of trying to make them look pretty. They all look the same when covered in sauce.

I dragged one of my friends shopping with me for this dish, so it was only fair that she got to try it in the end. One of my roommates, who is notoriously mushroom-phobic, warily joined us, and the three of us had a hoisin mushroom bun party for dinner on Sunday night.

My friend repeated “This is delicious” about five times throughout the course of the meal, and I have to agree — the saltiness of the soy and the sweetness of the maple helped to amplify the similar flavors of the hoisin, the cucumbers provided a crisp crunch and the lotus buns were soft and mildly sweet. Between the two of us, we devoured eleven mushroom buns, and my friend gave the recipe a 10/10. 

My roommate, on the other hand, was more skeptical, considering the mushrooms in the dish — but she willingly agreed to try a bun and loaded it up with all of the ingredients. After finishing, she gave the recipe an 8/10 — mushrooms aren’t her thing, but she still liked it, especially the cucumbers.

I still have a dozen lotus buns left in my freezer, so I will definitely be making this again. I think in the future it could maybe use a little more soy sauce and a little less hoisin to give it a saltier kick, but it was still absolutely fantastic — and I could (and will) eat that baked mushroom mixture on its own with a spoon.

Rating: 9/10

Have a recipe you’d like to see on The Weekly Veg? Email it to me and I’ll be happy to test and rate it.