The Grocery Ninja leaves no aisle unexplored, no jar unopened, no produce untasted. Creep along with her below, and read all her mission reports here.
The first time I spotted king oyster mushrooms at the market, I was with Mom, and she told me they were "Chicken drumsticks that grow on trees."
I was seven. Of course I believed her.
I was a pudgy kid—inordinately fond of braised duck, sizzling, hot plate venison, and the extra crisp, golden bits on the belly pork my grandma stir-fried with preserved mustard greens. A well-meaning aunt tried to put me on a diet while my parents were out of town, and the outcome was that I developed an abject loathing for all things green. Mom had her work cut out for her when she returned from the trip—and she wasn't above lying.
But as it turns out, Mom's lie wasn't too shabby. Those king oyster mushrooms were firm, full of umami goodness, and had an excellent bite. Best of all (once diced into thick coins), they both looked and tasted like one of my favorite foods—abalone. And it wasn't even so much a lie as a half truth, because these 'shrooms are so meaty that they are nicknamed ji tui gu or "chicken drumstick 'shrooms."
I've hardly seen them since moving away from Asia, and when I do, they're often extravagantly expensive—$16 to $20 a pound. Recently though, I spied them selling at my local Wegmans for $5 a pound. Score!
I brought a generous pound home, diced them in half-inch coins, then sautéed them in salted butter and cracked black pepper. They were every bit as good as I remembered, and, draped atop a bed of garlicky broccoli and steamed rice, made an excellent, light, vegetarian meal. Perfect for recovering from the Thanksgiving turkey excesses (and preparing for Christmas revelry). More recipes here.