This Chinese style mushroom chilli stir fry recipe is by my husband Kalpesh. He loves cooking and experimenting with his recipes. When we eat out and he likes something, he’ll try to figure out the ingredients. He’ll watch the dosa guy intently to see how he’s making such thin dosa, what tava he’s using. While I’m more focused on food and on getting the kiddo to eat properly, Kalpesh is noting all these details. His observation skills came in handy when he made this yummy Chinese starter, which we finished in no time flat. Advantage of making it at home, we were sure of no MSG or added colour in the food.
Now I knew Kalpesh loved cooking but I didn’t know he loved writing as well. What follows below are his words and lots of them mind you. 😀 Here’s the backstory of the recipe in his words and then finally the recipe…..
” I love experimenting with cooking and this Chinese Style Chilli Mushroom starter was created out of one such experiment.
I love the concept of tadka because of the way it flavors the dish. Mustard seeds and cumin seeds with kadipatta spluttered in oil gives just about the perfect taste to any dish. At my workplace, there’s this South Indian caterer guy who brings Idli-sambhar, Medu vada, Daal vada and Poha kind of dishes and I frequently order Poha from him because he makes it in a simple, no-nonsense style without overload of vegetables. Plain onion, flattened rice and the tadka. Along with being slightly hot due to chillies, it also tasted a bit sweet which was amazing. I tried to get him to spill out the recipe but he wouldn’t share. Trade-secret of course!! Not that I was going to set up my own business next to his. ;-). Well, one fine day, after ordering the Poha, I just took a closer look at the ingredients and tasted each one separately. Many of the misconceptions in my mind were cleared.
The enlightenment :-D.
I noticed he didn’t use jeera, which I previously thought was a necessity in the usual recipe of Poha. Also noticed a few fennel seeds which I previously thought were jeera. Then I tasted a few pieces of onion and found that they tasted sweet. I thought I had cracked the code for this recipe. The very next weekend I tried making Poha with this new found code. While cooking the onions, I added a little bit of sugar and salt in the tadka. The sweetened onions and fennel seeds did the trick. I was able to replicate the taste; well at least 90% of it!! Took a few more rounds of trying to get it perfect.
If you’ve read all what I wrote, you must be wondering what’s POHA doing in this recipe? Well don’t worry. This recipe is about our Chinese style starter, namely, Mushroom Chilli Stir Fry but my point is, that my interest in cracking the code for recipes went to the next level after this Poha incident. I even tried adding sesame seeds to the tadka along with fennel seeds for almost every tadka and it does taste better than your normal rai-jeera tadka.
Another experimental recipe.
Once we had some mushrooms left and wanted to use them before they were spoilt. I remembered once we had ordered some Singapore noodles at an Udipi-style restaurant and it came loaded with vegetables and cashews. I loved its taste and kind of remembered how cashews added flavor to the dish. So I was predetermined to use cashew nuts in my experimental recipe. The other ingredient I was keen to use was sesame seeds. The other ingredient that I found would add flavour to this stir fry was Ching’s Schezwan Chutney. My wife and I had earlier verified with Ching’s regarding MSG. They had confirmed that their products don’t contain MSG.
There was also some capsicum to use and thus, I got going. I got going with these ingredients. Made tadka with garlic, cashew nuts and sesame seeds. This was followed by schezwan sauce, onions and bell peppers. I could have added green chillies but it would be too hot for Mukta and Devansh. When the dish was ready, Mukta and Devansh both loved it and it was finished in 5 minutes flat. 😀
The taste of Schezwan with sesame seeds and cashews weaves a real magic for this dish. Try it out and let me know how you like it?
Some important tips to keep in mind to retain this dish’s Indo-Chinese style:
- Cook on high flame as much as possible.
- Don’t overcook the veggies. Let the crunch be!
- Don’t let the garlic or onion turn golden brown like we do for Indian dishes.
- Lots of sesame seeds. Believe me it will be yummy!
- Lots of garlic!!
- Don’t forget the cashews, the 2nd secret ingredient after sesame seeds.
- You can add green chillies if you like it hot and spicy.
- You can replace mushrooms with paneer to make it a Schezwan Paneer Chilli Stir Fry. Or, you can add bit of both, mushrooms as well as paneer along with the bell peppers.
- To take it a step ahead and you can increase the amount of water and make a thickish gravy to go with Noodles or Rice.
- Even better, after making a thickish gravy you can even ADD pasta and cheese to this dish. Yep, very versatile that way. Believe me, I’ve tried it all and we’ve all loved it.
How to make this Chinese style mushroom chilli starter?
Chinese Style Mushroom Stir Fry Recipe, Schezwan Mushroom Chilli
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 150 gms button mushrooms
- 2 tsp sesame seeds
- 3-4 chopped cashew nuts
- 1 small-sized onion (dice and then peel off the layers)
- 1/4th chopped red bell pepper (large pieces)
- 1/4th chopped yellow bell pepper (large pieces)
- 1/4th chopped green bell pepper / capsicum (large pieces)
- 2-3 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
- 1/4th cup water
- 1 green chilli (optional)
- Heat a pan and add oil.
- Add chopped garlic.
- Add green chillies if you want to make this stir fry spicy / hot. (Chillies are optional and not used in this recipe).
- Add chopped cashew nuts.
- Add sesame seeds. All of this will splutter. Mix everything properly but keep in mind not to overcook.
- Add onions and increase the flame to high. Intermittently keep alternating between high and low flame hereon to to ensure that the ingredients don't burn.
- Stir on the ingredients on a high flame for about half a minute. The onions and garlic mustn't turn golden in colour. (The sesame seeds and cashew nuts will be slightly red but that's normal.)
- Add Ching's schezwan chutney. Warning: When you mix this one, it's really going to sizzle and splutter a lot, spoiling the surroundings. But, this is one of the steps that's going to add a lot of flavor to your dish.
- Add water. The trick here is that the water will turn thickish due to the thickening agent present in the Schezwan chutney and so you won't have to add any corn starch additionally.
- Stir on the ingredients on a high flame for about half a minute and then add the chopped yellow, red and green bell peppers.
- Cook everything on a high flame for about half a minute more.
- Add mushrooms and keep tossing and cooking on high flame until the mushrooms shrink a bit and appear to be cooked.
- Add salt to taste and toss/mix again.
- Serve hot.
- Cook on high flame.
- Avoid overcooking.
- You can also try with paneer instead of mushrooms.
- Add more water to make a gravy to go with noodles and rice.
- You can make a thickish gravy and then add pasta and cheese. (That'll be Indo-Chinese-Italian. There I coined a new term I think. 😀 )