Soup season is upon us and my husband has been nagging me to get in gear and start cooking up some tasty soups. One of the American dishes to which I introduced him when I came to Spain was clam chowder. A typical clam chowder is actually pretty simple to make with just clams, dairy and a few veggies. Pork is optional, but certainly everyone has their opinion about what is needed to make an “authentic” clam chowder. My version is certainly not authentic, as the clams, dairy and pork are all missing, but I wanted to keep in the spirit of the soup’s simplicity and make it as easy as possible without any difficult-to-find bacon substitutes or strange thickeners.
I replaced the dairy with non-dairy milk thickened in the usual way with a roux, and replaced the clams with chopped oyster mushrooms. Now, I’ve seen other recipes for vegetarian clam chowder with mushrooms, but many of them did either nothing to flavour the mushrooms at all or used liquid smoke. Liquid smoke-flavoured mushrooms would be fine as a replacement to the bacon, but not to give the mushrooms the briny, umami taste of the sea of clams.
So I mixed up a simple sauce of my two favorite vegetarian umamis: miso and soy sauce, together with a generous pinch of salt and a little apple cider vinegar for that slight vinegary taste you might get if you used canned clams. I fried the oyster mushrooms to a lovely golden brown and poured the sauce over them just at the end of cooking. This made them much more interesting than plain ol’ oyster mushrooms.
In the end, my vegan oyster mushroom chowder got the stamp of approval from my husband, who is by no means an expert, having had clam chowder only twice before, but if you’re looking for a simple vegan clam chowder, this is it.
Serves 4, can easily be doubled
- 300 grams (10.5 oz) oyster mushrooms, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 2 tablespoons oil, divided
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon miso paste (if you don’t have miso, increase the soy sauce and vinegar according to the instructions below)
- 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- A pinch of salt
- 2 cups unsweetned non-dairy milk
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1/2 a medium onion, diced
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Pepper, to taste
- Juice of half a lemon or lime
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- Fry the mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned. Meanwhile, mix together the water, miso, soy sauce and apple cider vinegar. If you don’t have miso, mix together 1/4 cup water with 8 teaspoons soy sauce and 2 teaspoons vinegar. When the mushrooms have browned, pour the sauce over them and cook, stirring, until the liquid has evaporated. Taste and add enough salt make them quite salty like the sea. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery and thyme and fry until soft and transparent. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute. Slowly add the non-dairy milk and vegetable stock while whisking to avoid clumps. Bring to a boil, add the potatoes and reduce heat to a simmer. When the potatoes are beginning to soften, add the carrots.
- Once the potatoes and carrots are soft, remove from the heat and add the mushrooms, salt, pepper and lemon or lime juice. Serve garnished with fresh parsley.