Sunday, September 30, 2018

Yuba-mushroom cheesesteak sandwiches

September 22, 2018

When we're in the mood for an all-day food project, we often turn to Serious Eats. Most recently, we had a crack at their veganised Philly cheesesteak. We've never tried the real thing - a soft long roll filled with many layers of thinly sliced steak and some mild and melty cheese - but we've had a few mock meat versions around Melbourne before.

What most appealed to me about this recipe is the use of layered bean curd sheets in place of the meat. We don't have a lot of experience cooking with it and I was keen to try it again. KFL Supermarket stocked numerous brands and forms, and we picked two to play around with. The first were just thin dried rectangles, and the second were thicker fried rings - I thought these latter ones might be a bit chewier and better at absorbing flavour.

Each component is a full recipe in itself. First, there's a mushroomy stock where the veges are roasted for maximum flavour. You can optionally smoke the yuba, but we just added a few teaspoons of liquid smoke instead as we later cooked it in the stock. A vegan cheese sauce gets its creaminess from blended simmered potato as well as cashews; it's spiced up with paprika, chipotles and jalapenos. Then there's onions slowly caramelised on the stovetop and more roasted mushrooms for the filling. It really is an all-afternoon affair!

The one core hiccup for us was cooking the bean curd sheets. They're thin and brittle, difficult to slice into strips and and not amenable to being coated in dark caramel as the recipe suggests. Even once the stock went in, I picked and prodded at the bean curds, adding a bit more water and trying to make sure each one had enough time submerged in liquid to soften properly. I wonder if the ones used by the Serious Eats team had a different form.

The finished rolls were sloppy and savoury and very enjoyable! And leftovers that we were glad to eat for days. But we didn't really pick up on the many nuanced ingredients that went in along the way - the stock was quite mild, the peppers barely perceptible, the mushrooms losing out to the volume of bean curd in the filling. Our minds are ticking over on a different version - less yuba (pre-soaked) and more mushrooms, sauteed in vegan Worcestershire and oyster sauces, and perhaps one of our other creamier vegan sauces. At this stage we're boldly hoping that we can quarter the effort and possibly even dial up the flavour along the way.

Yuba-mushroom cheesesteak sandwiches
(slightly adapted from a recipe on Serious Eats)

mushroom stock
560g button mushrooms, brushed and quartered
1 onion, quartered
8 cloves garlic, roughly smashed
1 large carrot, cut into large chunks
4 ribs celery, cut into large chunks
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon beef-style stock powder

cheese sauce
6 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 chipotle pepper plus 1 teaspoon adobo sauce, all chopped finely
1 small potato, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup roasted cashews
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 teaspoons pickling liquid from a jar of jalapeños

sandwich filling
2 onions, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons sunflower oil
200g king oyster mushrooms, shredded lengthwise
salt and pepper
1/4 cup caster sugar
400g bean curd sheets (yuba), sliced into thick strips
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

6 long rolls

Start with the mushroom stock! Preheat an oven to 230°C. In a large bowl, mix together the mushrooms, onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Add 4 tablespoons of the oil and the salt and toss everything together. Spread the veges out over two baking trays and roast them, tossing them around every 15 minutes, until they're dark brown, about 45 minutes total.

Set a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and the tomato paste, cooking for up to 5 minutes, until dark brown. Add 1.5 litres of water, the roasted vegetables and the stock powder. Simmer everything together for 45 minutes. Strain out the solids and keep the stock for the following steps.

Next, the cheese sauce. Pour the oil into a medium-large saucepan and set it over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and jalapeño, and cook them, stirring regularly, until soft but not browned. Add the cumin, paprika, garlic powder and chipotle with sauce and cook for a further a minute. Add the potatoes and cashews, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the water and almond milk and bring it all to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the hot sauce, pickle juice and salt. Use a blender or spice grinder to make the smoothest sauce you can (it's a tough ask with all those potato chunks!).

Time to prepare the sandwich filling. In a small frypan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over low-medium heat. Add the onions and cook slowly, stirring regularly, until thoroughly caramelised, about 30 minutes. Set aside.

Get that oven back up to 230°C. In a bowl, toss the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil through the king oyster mushrooms and season it all with salt and pepper. Spread them over a baking tray and roast until golden brown, up to 20 minutes.

Go back to your largest saucepan and set it over high heat. Add the sugar, and cook it until melted and browning. Add the yuba strips and, if you can, stir them around to get them coated in the caramel. Add the liquid smoke, paprika, garlic powder, and then pour over the mushroom stock. Simmer, stirring regularly, until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the yuba, about 15-20 minutes. (We added some extra water and put the lid of for a bit to get the yuba steaming, before taking it off to let liquid evaporate.) Turn off the heat and stir in the mustard. Fold through the sauteed onions and roasted king oyster mushrooms.

To assemble, slice each long roll lengthways. Spread 1/4 cup of cheese sauce on the bottom half of each roll, pile up the yuba-mushroom filling and pop the top back on.


  1. My experience with the Yuma sheets in the red packet is similar to yours. They fall apart and don’t do what recipes suggest they should. At our Asian grocer there is a green packet which is much more like the tuba used for inari which may work better here. But this sounds like an awful lot of work!

    1. Hi Theresa! Thanks for your tips on yuba shopping. Thick inari ones sound perfect, I'll keep an eye out for green packets. :)

  2. I love to read a bit of process with recipes and look forward to your cheesesteak sandwiches mark II. I have only tried yuba once I think and found it a bit odd but I have never tried a cheesesteak sandwich - I ca!n imagine it might have been fine footy food on the weekend!

    1. Thanks, Johanna! I think our next version will look quite different. :)

  3. This sounds amazing, though I think I look forward to your simplified version.