About this Recipe
This popular dish from Odisha in eastern India involves cooking mushrooms in a hot, pungent, and tangy mustard gravy. These two key ingredients give the dish its name – “chathu” is mushrooms in Odiya, and “rai” is mustard. At The Quorum, where I cook and serve modern world cuisine, it’s thrilling to recast traditional flavors in contemporary avatars. The humble chathu rai gets kicked up a notch with Japanese mushrooms like shimeji thrown into the mixand served with hand-crafted fresh gram flour fettuccine.
Mushrooms in a mustard gravy is a vitamin fest. Mushrooms are a rich source of B and D vitamins, while mustard seeds have vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, and folic acid. Mushrooms and the accompanying spices also pack a ton of micronutrients such as potassium, calcium, and copper, and are rich in antioxidants, making this recipe good for heart health, bone health, and overall immunity.
Note: This recipe calls for a dash of panch phoran (loosely translates to “tempering of five”), the most famous spice mix used in East India. You essentially need a pinch of each of these five whole spices – cumin, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds, and fennel. No need to pound or blend, the seeds are tempered in hot oil. If mustard cooking oil isn’t available where you live, use olive oil.
For the Mustard Sauce
- 2 Tbsp (15 g) mustard seeds
- 2 tsp cumin
- 3 to 4 dry red chiles
- 8 to 10 cloves of garlic
- ½ tsp salt
For the Mushroom Gravy
- 200 g button mushroom heads (stems discarded), cleaned and cut into quarters
- 200 g shimeji mushrooms
- 100 g dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked for 3 hours in lukewarm water
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) mustard oil or olive oil
- 1 Tbsp whole panch phoran
- 3 (200 g) medium red onions, finely chopped
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- 3 (200 g) medium ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
- 2 tsp amchur powder
- 5 to 6 springs fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Step 1To make the mustard sauce: In a small bowl, soak the mustard seeds, cumin, and dry red chiles for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and add the spices to a blender. Add the garlic cloves and salt, and blend the ingredients to a smooth paste, adding a little water, if needed.
Step 2Prep the mushrooms: Wash dirt and grime off the mushrooms and leave to air-dry for 10 minutes. Trim the stems off the button mushrooms and cut the umbrellas into quarters. Drain the shitake.
Step 3In a medium pan, heat the mustard oil to a smoking point (this helps bring down the oil’s pungency; if using olive oil, no need to smoke). Turn the heat to a medium and add the panch phoran. When the spices start to splutter, add the onions and let them soften and brown, stirring occasionally.
Step 4Add the turmeric and red chili powder and mix well. Add the chopped tomatoes, mix well, and cook down on high heat, stirring now and then to prevent it from sticking.
Step 5Once the tomatoes soften, mix in the mushrooms. Add the salt and amchur powder for a nice tang. Cook on high heat while stirring continuously until the water from the mushrooms evaporates. Once the mushrooms are browned, lower the heat and add about 2 to 3 tablespoons of water to deglaze the pan. Mix well to assimilate the flavors.
Step 6Add the mustard paste prepared earlier, mix well, and cook on medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of water for a semi-dry preparation (if eating with rice, add more water for gravy). Lightly stir in some chopped cilantro and turn off the heat.
Level up: Make your own panch phoran spice blend. Mix 1 tablespoon each of cumin, brown mustard seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, and nigella seeds. Store in a jar and use as desired for sautéed dishes. You can adjust the quantity of the ingredients to make a smaller or bigger batch.