Beoseot gangjeong is deep-fried crispy mushrooms glazed in a slightly sweet and sour with a spicy kick. The lightly coated mushrooms are deep-fried in shallow oil. The sauce only takes a few minutes!
On one of my recent trips to Korea, a friend and I dined at Balwoo Gongyang, a Michelin starred restaurant serving up temple cuisine in downtown Seoul. Every dish was delicately prepared, highlighting the natural flavors and textures of the ingredients. One of the dishes my friend and I particularly enjoyed was this beoseot gangjeong (버섯강정), which is deep-fried crispy mushrooms glazed in a slightly sweet and sour sauce with a spicy kick.
I brought the inspiration back to my kitchen, and this recipe was born!
What is gangjeong?
Gangjeong is a type of traditional Korean confectionery that’s deep-fried and coated with a sticky syrup. The same technique is also used to make various other sweet and savory dishes such as dak gangjeong (sweet crispy chicken) and this beoseot gangjeong.
Which types of mushrooms to use
Dried shiitake mushrooms (pyogo beoseot) are preferable for this dish for the concentrated flavor and chewy and meaty texture. Shiitake mushrooms have a strong, earthy flavor, and they are packed with umami due to the amino acid glutamate content.
These mushrooms are an essential ingredient in Korean temple cuisine which is plant-based. Because of their high protein content, they are a great addition to meatless diets.
As you know, dried shiitakes come in many different sizes. Reconstituting time can vary depending on the size of the mushrooms. In general, it takes longer than 2 hours for them to turn plump and tender. You can use fresh mushrooms for this dish if you want.
King mushrooms are a great substitute for shiitake mushrooms. You can even use a combination of shiitake and king mushrooms if you want.
The potato starch creates a thin, crispy crust for the mushrooms. You really don’t need a lot of oil for deep-frying. The mushroom pieces fry well in shallow oil.
How to make the sauce
The sauce is sweet and tangy with a hint of a spicy kick from gochujang (고추장, Korean red chili pepper paste). I tried to recreate the restaurant version which was lightly coated with a sauce that was mildly flavored.
As this is a temple cuisine inspired dish, I did not use any garlic here. I also think a minimally flavored sauce is better to highlight the natural flavors of the mushrooms.
The restaurant dish didn’t have any nut garnish, but you can garnish with chopped nuts or seeds, if you want. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and/or sesame seeds are all great!
Beoseot Gangjeong (Sweet Crispy Mushrooms)Side Dish
- 2 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms See note
- 1/4 bell pepper red, orange or yellow or a combination
- 1/4 cup potato starch or cornstarch
- oil for deep frying
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean red chili pepper paste)
- 1 tablespoon vinegar (rice wine vinegar or any other clear vinegar)
- 2 tablespoons rice syrup (jocheong, 조청), corn syrup, or oligodang (올리고당) or 1 to 1.5 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons rice wine (or mirin)
- Soak the dried mushrooms until they are plump and tender. This will take over 2 hours depending on the size of the mushrooms.
- Squeeze out the water from the soaked mushrooms, and then cut the mushrooms into quarters (or halves if small). Cut the peppers into small pieces.
- Add the potato (or corn) starch to the mushrooms, and massage them well to coat evenly.
- In a pan, add all the sauce ingredients, and stir well. Bring it to a boil. When it starts to bubble, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until it thickens slightly, about 4 minutes.
- Add oil to a heavy bottom pan, about 1/2 inch high. When the oil is sufficiently hot (about 320°F), drop the mushroom pieces in one at a time. Cook until light golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Remove and set them on a wire rack or a paper towel-lined plate.
- Reheat the oil to 320°F. Deep fry again until golden brown, about a minute.
- Heat the sauce over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and peppers, and stir well until the mushroom pieces are evenly coated.