Mama’s Punjabi Recipes: Portobello Khumban Appetizer (Sauteed Portobello Mushroom)


Though khumban (mushrooms) have recently started showing up in Indian vegetable markets, these are generally the more widely known small white or button type that are easy to cultivate in greenhouses. But there are many more other kinds of mushrooms that are just not freely available in India and so have no place in traditional Punjabi family dishes.

Though neither meat nor vegetable, mushrooms – known scientifically as Agaricus bisporus – are known as the “meat” of the vegetable world. They are cultivated in more than seventy countries, with China producing half of all edible mushrooms and Poland the world’s largest exporter at 194,000 tonnes each year. Mushrooms are low in sugar but an excellent source of the B vitamins, riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid as well as phosphorus. When the mushroom is immature it may be white or brown but when mature, the large ones are known as Portobello and the smaller brown ones Crimini.

Though the same spices as their white cousins, Portobello mushrooms have a distinctively different, heavier and more bitter flavor. The dark coloring, taste and texture of the cooked flesh of the cap is often compared to a cooked hamburger patty. It only takes a few minutes to cook them and so they are a quick dish to cook in a pinch. You can cut a Portobello into 4 or 6 thick slices and so, a few can these easily fill up a plate.

Just as with the small white mushrooms, it is best to make sure not to wash Portobellos in running water before cooking, as they will retain the moisture in the gills of their caps. This is why this recipe uses damp cleaning for the mushrooms.



4 Portobello khumban (Portobello mushrooms)
1 tbsp olive oil (olive oil)
Spices to taste: namak (salt); lal mirch (red pepper) optional



1. Trim the short stems of the mushrooms and place the caps on the side on a dry cloth.
2. Take a damp paper towel and clean the dirt off each mushroom. Make sure not to wash them as the water will lodge in the caps. Leave the cleaned mushrooms on the cloth for 10 minutes to air dry.
3. When dry, cut the mushroom cap into about ¼ inch thick slices.
4. Pour the olive oil in a frying pan and warm it over high heat.
5. Pour in the mushrooms into the hot oil. Stir continuously for a few minutes till the mushrooms are brown. Sprinkle with salt and mix. There is no need to add too many spices as they will mask the taste of the Portobello.
6. Remove from the heat, pour into a platter and serve.




Briyanis and pulaos have become a favorite of many gatherings and several restaurants which serve only these two dishes are popping up all over the place. Apart from the other ingredients in the rice dishes, it is important to make them appealing with just the added touch of sprinkled sliced browned onions.

The trick is to cook these sliced onions separately but usually you may be anxious to cook them quickly at the end and can easily burn them. Try adding a pinch of sugar to the onions while they are cooking and they will brown faster.


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Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur (since renamed Faisalabad), India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes