This is my go-to batch-cooking recipe for ground meat (beef, pork, bison). It’s easy, tasty, and super quick. It freezes well and accompanies anything — from vegetables to rice to noodles to tofu.
Kari rented a room in our New Zealand brick house when I was 4 years old. She soon became my mum’s best friend, and she taught me Mandarin because it would have been too strange to speak English at home. Kari doesn’t speak Cantonese since she’s from Dalian.
Fast-forward two decades later, Kari and her family moved to Silicon Valley where her husband, James, founded a medical device company. I had recently graduated from college and planned a move to Northern California where I heard tech was booming and jobs were plentiful. We lived close by each other for the next 8 years until 2019 when I moved to Boulder, Colorado.
By sheer coincidence, Kari’s youngest son Allen moved to Boulder just 5 days ago. He is enrolled at CU Boulder. Who would have thought?
Kari taught me this meat-sauce recipe. It’s like a Chinese-style Bolognese except it uses shiitake mushrooms instead of tomatoes. It takes less than 30 minutes to cook compared to Bolognese’s 4 hours.
Because Kari’s shiitake mushroom meat sauce holds up well to freezing, we batch cook it before going on vacation or during stressful periods when I crave comfort foods and don’t have time to cook.
Why make Kari’s Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce?
This is a versatile dish. You can use any ground meat you like or whatever is in your fridge.
Kari’s Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce accompanies anything — from noodles to steamed vegetables to rice to a bed of salad greens. I bet it would work in Sloppy Joes or as taco meat substitute over nachos.
This is my go-to recipe for batch cooking.
I’ve been making Kari’s Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce this week since we’re down to the wire for wedding planning. I know we’ll be too tired to cook when we get home from our “vacation”, so we’ve got several containers of frozen meat sauce waiting for us.
RELATED: Check out the article Growing Our Creepy Mushrooms.
Who will love Kari’s Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce?
Thanks to the minced fresh garlic and green onions as well as the copious amounts of soy sauce, this dish tastes “very Chinese”, as my housemate Emma once said.
You’ll love this dish if you enjoy strong aromas, such as garlic. The meat sauce gets its superpowers from all the ingredients packed with umami flavors, such as the ground meat, soy sauce, and shiitake mushrooms.
What ingredients do you need to make Kari’s Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce?
The classic version of this dish is made with ground pork. We’ve made it with beef and bison, which tastes just as good. Our current preference is to make it with ground bison from Costco, because we’ve struggled to find pasture-raised pork in Boulder, Colorado.
You can switch up the flavor by using different ground meats. I’ve never tried ground chicken, turkey, or lamb (yet), but I imagine they would taste just as good.
For green onions, you’ll want to use fresh green onions. If you don’t have any, you can substitute with chives or shallots. Or if you don’t have green onions or chives, you can substitute with a conventional onions — red, white, yellow. Onions will produce a sweeter dish that should be equally good.
You can use fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms. We bought fresh shiitake mushrooms at Safeway in Boulder. Luckily, grocery chains in the SF Bay Area are not the only places that stock fresh shiitakes.
You could use dried shiitake mushrooms. These are convenient because you can buy them in bulk, and they last indefinitely. Re-hydrate the mushrooms overnight in a bowl of cold tap water. Or if you’re preparing the mushrooms just before cooking, you’ll want to re-hydrate them in a bowl of boiling water.
We like to use both dark soy sauce and light soy sauce. Dark soy sauce brings a rich caramel flavor and light soy sauce puts a refreshing, salty finish to the dish. If you find the dish is not salty enough based on the amounts of soy sauce in the recipe, add more salt to taste.
RELATED: Learn more about the difference between dark vs. light soy sauce and when to use both.
What should you do if you’ve only got one type of soy sauce?
Not everybody has the luxury of dark and light soy sauce. Use whatever soy sauce you can find, even if your only option is Kikkoman or Safeway’s Signature Range soy sauce.
After cooking, you can mix in crumbled tofu. This stretches the dish by adding extra protein while being wallet friendly and environmentally friendly.
I almost always add crumbled tofu to bulk up the dish. You should use a brick tofu that is at least medium firm, if not firm or extra firm. You want as little water as possible so drain the tofu and squeeze without breaking it.
Crumble the tofu directly into the dish after adding the mushrooms.
RELATED: Check out the article Do you need to press silken tofu?
What equipment do you need to make Kari’s Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce?
A big soup pot with a stiff spoon or a wooden spoon works best. You need a lot of surface area to brown the ground meat. And you’ll want to break up any clumps with your spoon.
Give me Kari’s Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce in 3 steps
Tips For Flavor
- Fry the aromatics in hot oil for at least 30 seconds to bring all the fragrant flavors into the oil, which will coat the meat and mushrooms later.
- Pour the soy sauce into the raw ground meat so the meat is adequately salted and can absorb the soy sauce flavors while it cooks.
- If you like toasted sesame oil, add 1/2 teaspoon after you turn off the heat and mix in before serving.
- Soup Pot
- Silicone Spoon
- Chopping Board
- 1 lb. Ground Meat (Bison, pork, beef, chicken, turkey, lamb all work)
- 4 cups Shiitake Mushrooms (Dried or fresh. If dried, use 2 big handfuls.)
- 1 brick Tofu (Optional)
- Slice and chop the green onions.
- Crush and peel the garlic cloves. Chop the garlic into rough pieces.
- Wash and roughly chop the shiitake mushrooms.
Cook the ground meat
- Put your big soup pot over high heat on the stove. Add canola oil into the soup pot.
- Once the oil starts to shimmer, add the chopped green onion and garlic. Stir fry the aromatics for 30 seconds.
- Add the ground meat into the soup pot. Break up the ground meat into big chunks.
- Pour both the dark and light soy sauce into the ground meat.
- Stir the soy sauce into the meat until evenly blended. Lower the heat to medium-high. Cook the ground meat until there is only a touch of pink left, about 5 minutes.
- While cooking the meat, use the back of the spoon to squish any chunks of meat to break up each clump of meat. Taste the meat to determine if the dish is salty enough.
Cook the mushrooms
- Add the chopped shiitake mushrooms.
- If the meat sauce isn't salty enough yet, add the extra salt. Stir in the salt and allow the mushrooms to cook and release their water.
- Optional: crumble tofu into the dish to stretch the meat and add protein. If you're omitting the tofu, then skip this step. If cooking the tofu, stir the crumbled tofu into the dish until well mixed.
- Cook until the meat is fully cooked. There should be no pink or red left.
- Enjoy your aromatic meat sauce with shiitake mushroom!
What to eat with Kari’s Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce
You can enjoy Kari’s Shiitake Mushroom Meat Sauce like you would Bolognese sauce. That means serve it over fresh pasta.
Or accompanying steamed vegetables.
Or over a bed of green salad.
Or next to rice noodles with steamed vegetables.