Vegan Japanese Fried ‘Oysters’ (Kaki Fry) that look and taste just like the real deal! Made with juicy oyster mushrooms coated in panko– deep fried until perfectly crispy and golden brown. Served with lemon juice and homemade tartar sauce!
Kaki fry (pronounced kaki fu-rai), or Japanese fried oysters were one of my favourite dishes to order at izakaya are sushi restaurants. I remember fighting over the last piece with my sisters and we’d end up having to order another plate or two. What makes Japanese fried oysters different than fried oysters in North America is the breaded coating. Instead of breadcrumbs, panko is used which is known to give fried foods a lighter and airy, yet still delightfully crispy coating– like katsu.
I had the pleasure of trying vegan fried ‘oysters’ in Japan a few years ago at a shōjin ryō (Japanese buddhist cuisine) restaurant. There, they used maitake mushrooms and tofu for the coating batter to give it that soft, almost fluffy like texture which I really enjoyed. I took inspiration from that experience and came up with this vegan kaki fry recipe that I think, looks pretty close to real fried oysters!
Texture and flavour wise, too– when I had Eric taste test it he said it tasted shockingly close to real oysters, thanks to the slimy nagaimo and sea-scented nori. They’re refreshing, delicious and paired perfectly with a glass of beer.
How to Make Vegan Fried Oyster Mushrooms with Tartar Sauce
For the Vegan Fried Oysters
- Oyster mushrooms: not to be confused with king oyster mushrooms! To achieve that ‘oyster’ look, use oyster mushrooms or maitake mushrooms. If you don’t care for the looks, you can opt to use shiitake mushrooms, shimeji mushrooms or king oyster mushrooms.
- Nagaimo: also known as Japanese mountain yam or Chinese yam. For those unfamiliar, this is the ingredient that mimics eggs for the dredge. It also gives it that slightly slimy texture that oysters also have.
- Aonori: gives it a seafood-like flavour. Dulse flakes can be substituted.
- Kombu dashi: Optional, but also adds a sea-food like flavour.
- Soy sauce: for flavour
- Potato starch: slightly thickens the batter to ensure it sticks to the mushrooms as well as makes the outside lightly and crunchy.
- Nori sheet: adding torn up nori sheets helps achieve that look of oysters, as well as enhances the seafood-like flavour.
- Japanese Panko: for a light and crispy texture.
- Oil: for frying.
- Vegan Kewpie Mayo: I used by homemade vegan kewpie mayo! For a quick kewpie mayo, mix together 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise, a pinch of kombu dashi granules, 1/8 tsp dijon mustard, 1 tsp rice vinegar and 1/4 tsp sugar.
- Medium firm tofu: replaces the eggs typically added to Japanese tartar sauce.
- Black salt: adds a light eggy flavour
- White Onions
- Japanese Mustard (Karashi): Powder or bottled. A touch of this really enhances the sauce!
Vegan Fried Oysters
- Prep the mushrooms: Tear the oyster mushrooms into thumb-sized pieces. You should end up with about 6 pieces depending on the size of the mushrooms. With the dredge and panko, they will get quite big.
- Make the ‘dredge’: Grate the nagaimo into a bowl. Nagaimo is very slimy so please be careful if using a sharper grater. Add in the seasonings and stir everything together. Tear some pieces of nori and give it a quick mix.
- Coat the mushrooms: Use chopsticks to enter-twine the dredge, ensuring some pieces of nori stick onto the mushrooms. Then quickly roll it in the panko bread crumbs. Place on a plate and then repeat for remaining pieces.
- Fry: Preheat an appropriate amount of oil to 350 F (180 C). Drop each ‘oyster’ into the oil and fry each side for 45-60 seconds or until golden brown. They will continue to brown just a bit out of the fryer. Place on a wire rack to allow excess oil to drip off. Tear the oyster mushrooms into 5-6 segments with your hands, slightly larger than the size of your thumb.
To make the tartar sauce, simply combine all the ingredients together in a bowl. Adjust consistency and taste to your liking.
How to Bake or Air Fry Vegan Fried Oysters
While nothing beats the texture of deep fried food, these fried oysters are quite delicious baked or air fried as well! They take on a more crunchy mouth feel rather than a light and crispy texture but are still delightfully juicy and delicious. The benefits of these two methods is that you don’t have to worry about hot oil splatters and the lingering smell of deep frying.
The first step is to toast the panko with a little oil over medium heat. This is a common techqniue used in Japan for baked tonkatsu and croquettes. It helps achieve that beautiful golden brown colour prior to getting baked. Then the rest of the steps are exactly the same! Coat it in the toasted panko and then bake in a pre-heated oven at 400 F for 10-12 minutes (flipping half way) or until deep golden brown. If using an air fryer, air fry at 400 F for 4 minutes, flip and then air fry the other side for another 4 minutes or until desired colour.
How to Serve
Shred some cabbage or lettuce. This is my favourite cabbage shredder to achieve really thin shreds like you’ll at most Japanese restaurants. Place your desired amount of the oyster mushrooms on to the plate along with some lemon wedges and fresh parsley if you have some on hand. Add some tartar sauce on the side. Squeeze some lemon over the oysters, dip into the tartar sauce and enjoy!
Recipe notes & tips
- For the tartar sauce, finely chop the onions and pickles to bring out their flavour and so it’s not too chunky. The ratio I’ve shared is quite thick, almost like a dip (how we like it), but if you prefer a slightly more loose sauce add 1/2-1 tsp of lemon juice or water. If using lemon juice, you can skip squeezing it on the actual fried ‘oyster’ mushrooms.
- Nagaimo can be found at asian grocery stores. They may be labelled as Japanese Mountain Yams or Chinese Yams.
- If using soft tofu instead of nagaimo, start with 225g out of the package. Lightly drain and press excess water out, the net weight should be about 200g. Then blend it with a small blender until smooth. You may need to add a bit more potato starch to ensure it sticks to the mushrooms.
More Vegan Seafood Recipes to Try
- Vegan Poke Bowl with Crispy Tofu
- Vegan Unagi Donburi (Una-don) – coming soon!
- Vegan Teriyaki Salmon – coming soon!
- Vegetarian Oyster Sauce – coming soon!
- Spicy Vegan Stir Fried Chili Shrimp (Ebi Chili) – coming soon!
- Spicy Korean Stir Fried Squid – coming soon!
- Vegan Dashi – coming soon!
If you recreate this Japanese Fried Oyster Mushrooms recipe let me know how you liked it by leaving a comment and rating below or by tagging me on Instagram @Okonomikitchen, I love seeing all of your tasty recreations!
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