About the name :
The Hericium genus of edible fungi grow wild throughout much of the Eastern US. And while they aren’t common, they are unique. When fresh they have a tender, fleshy texture and delicate flavor strongly reminiscent of shellfish, particularly crab. They grow on living trees or dead wood, hence “Tree Crab.”
The recipe itself is one I plundered from my first real (some would say only real) restaurant job. You know, I’m not even sure it was a real job, come to think of it. But the recipe is very very real, at least in the sense that it exists as a handwritten list of ingredients that I ran off with when we closed. In the lovely angular script of my kitchen manager Amy (although it isn’t her recipe either) :
I like that egg has an egg stain next to it. Anyway, for about fifteen years I’ve carried these old sheets of notebook paper with all the lists of ingredients for the recipes of Chez Nameless around but the one that I have made time and time again is this one, never exactly the same as we made it then but never very different. Having acknowledged my theft, here is the recipe.
Combine in a mixing bowl :
12 oz. Hericium genus fungus (Lions Mane, Bears Head Tooth, etc), shredded into small pieces by hand, sliced thin if too firm for shredding
4 oz red onion, minced
2 oz shallot, minced
handful of chopped shiso
handful of chopped cilantro
1-2 tbs of tuong ot toi
2-4 tbs of thai sweet chili sauce
*There is no egg. Don’t add any eggs.
**Adjust the amount of sauces used based on your own taste and the moisture content (see below).
Combine these ingredients and mix them together very well, preferably with your hands.
Add enough breadcrumbs to dry out the mixture slightly. The amount will vary depending on how much liquid is in the fungus. You will have to use your own judgement, but the normal range is between a half cup and full cup.
Shape the mix into patties of whatever size you prefer, firming them with your hands. If the mix is too watery, add more crumbs. If it is too dry add more sauce.
Roll or coat the patties in panko or more breadcrumbs and prepare hot oil for frying. I usually use just a small amount of oil in the pan, rather than deep frying but either will work. Fry until golden brown.
At this point you may freeze the cakes for later serving. You may also finish them by placing them in a very hot oven or under a broiler. Finish them at very high heat and very quickly. In this way the moisture content and crispiness will both be ideal.
Oh and of course, this also works with “real” crab.