There is a Season with Molly Parr: Inspired by an old favorite: Mushroom Infinity is delicious, vegan and can be gluten-free

Molly Parr’s recipe, “Mushroom Infinity,” inspried by the gone-but-not-forgotten NYC restaurant, Zen Palate. 

Molly Parr’s recipe, “Mushroom Infinity,” inspried by the gone-but-not-forgotten NYC restaurant, Zen Palate.  PHOTO BY MOLLY PARR


For the Gazette

Published: 02-23-2024 2:21 PM

Not quite 30 years ago, I studied in Manhattan. I had my first computer and went online for the first time. Back then I still found most of my news from actual newspapers, and social media didn’t exist. Even though the “Seinfeld Diner” was practically on campus, I enjoyed venturing out to seek delicious things.

And one of my favorites was Zen Palate, a vegetarian pan-Asian spot on the Upper West Side between Zabar’s and Fairway.

There was one dish in particular that I loved: the Mushroom Infinity. Crispy yet chewy pieces of mushrooms dancing on sizzling cast iron, like fajitas. You couldn’t get it for take out because it’s hard to make sizzling to go.

I’ve thought about the dish off and on for years. Last month, while I was tossing tofu in cornstarch before pan-frying, it occurred to me that I could probably do the same with pieces of portobello mushrooms. A moment of Zen Palate enlightenment.

For the life of me, I couldn’t remember what the mushrooms were served with, so I came up with this Thai dressing, and served the mushrooms over rice noodles. This dish is vegan, and can be gluten-free if you use a gluten-free Tamari in the sauce. To Mushroom Infinity and beyond!

Mushroom Infinity

Vegan Thai Sauce

Up to six Thai chiles, finely chopped (if you like things hot)

One and a half tablespoons minced garlic

One quarter cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons lime juice

3 tablespoons tamari

One and a half tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon vegan Thai sweet chili (I actually use SambalOelek and love it)

To make the dressing, combine the chiles, garlic, sugar, lime juice, tamari, apple cider vinegar, salt and chile paste in a small bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Cook noodles of your choice, prepared according to the package. Rinse well and add to the mushrooms to help soak up the dressing.

For the mushrooms:

3 portobello mushrooms, cleaned and stemmed and sliced into five long pieces, and then chopped into thirds

2 to 3 Tablespoons (16 to 24 g) cornstarch

1 Tablespoon (15 ml) oil, for pan

Sprinkle 1 heaping tablespoon (about 8 to 12g) cornstarch into a large container, add the mushrooms in a single layer, then sprinkle another heaping tablespoon (8 to 12g) of cornstarch. If you can, cover the container and shake to coat the mushrooms with cornstarch.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms in a single layer and fry, flipping once when golden, until crispy on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. While the mushrooms are frying, prepare the sauce.

Lower the heat to medium and pour in the sauce. Let the sauce simmer and thicken for a couple of minutes, flipping the mushroom to coat it on both sides.

Molly Parr lives in Florence with her husband and two young daughters. She’s been writing her food blog, Cheap Beets, since 2010. Send questions or comments to