If oyster mushrooms are hard to come by where you live, button mushrooms are not a great substitute but they will still work. We find oyster mushrooms year round in Coimbatore but unfortunately not in Chennai, so I have, albeit begrudgingly, accepted the button mushroom as a half-decent substitute.

As is the case with any (non-dried) mushrooms, buy them fresh (the sniff + prod test is especially handy here) and use right away. The chilli powder in question is the sambar powder variant: chilli powder with additional spices mixed in. My grand mom makes a batch for the family every year and couriers it to us. I only use this and can always tell when it’s been made with a different type/brand of sambar powder. But worry not, the ‘Sakthi’ brand of sambar powder I’ve found to be a pretty close match.

This is my great grandmother’s recipe which back then she’d make using wild mushrooms—an assortment both big and small—foraged in the nearby fields. I remember the lady (her assistant of sorts) who’d go in the mornings to pluck them, coming back with heaps of mushrooms and wild greens tucked away in her makeshift sari pouch. Buying mushrooms wrapped in plastic from a grocery store sounds way less idyllic in comparison, but I’m grateful to have seen and experienced small glimpses of that life.


Servings: 2


  • 350 - 400 grams oyster mushrooms
  • ¾ tsp sambar powder (or to taste)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 10 grams butter
  • 1 tsp oil
  • Salt, to taste


  • Rinse the mushrooms gently in a bowl of water, making sure to remove any grit from the heads and stems. Some of them may have hard woody stems. Cut these bits off and discard. Tear up any bigger mushrooms with your fingers; leave the smaller ones whole.
  • Lay the flat of your knife on the garlic clove and press down until it bruises lightly. Remove skin and discard.
  • Add oil to a pot and throw in the curry leaves and garlic. Once the curry leaves start to splutter, add mushrooms, salt and sambar powder. Cover and cook for 5-8 minutes until just tender. You want the mushrooms to still have a bite to them and remain intact.
  • Once cooked, turn the heat up to high and move the mushrooms around with a spatula until the cooking juices in the pot, if any, evaporate. (Don’t make it too dry; you want just enough moisture coating the mushrooms - see picture).
  • Add butter and toss in the residual heat. Serve hot or at room temperature. Best eaten with rice.


Use button mushrooms if you can't find oyster mushrooms.

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