Try This Recipe for a Next-Level Sour Cream and Onion Dip
This riff on the classic from LittleMad chef Sol Han swaps a classic potato chip dipper for deep-fried maitake mushrooms
First combined in 1954 by an enterprising home chef in the Golden State, sour cream and Lipton’s dehydrated onion soup mix came together to form a culinary creation that became known as California Dip thanks to its state of origin.
The dip was an instant hit and news of its creation “spread through Los Angeles faster than a canyon fire,” according to Jean Anderson, the author of The American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century. “Newspapers printed the recipe, onion soup mix sales soared, and Lipton executives, a continent away in New Jersey, were ecstatic,” Anderson wrote in her 1997 book. “They tracked down the recipe, perfected it, and beginning in 1958, printed it on every box of Lipton Recipe Secrets Onion Soup Mix.”
Over the years, Califonia dip has clearly become better known as sour cream and onion dip and is mass-produced by all sorts of manufacturers as well as made in home kitchens using the same Lipton mix that started the culinary craze back in the ’50s. (Not to be confused with another dip-related fad that took place in the same decade.)
At Korean American restaurant LittleMad in New York City, a favorite of The New York Times that opened in 2021, the sour cream and onion dip is served inside a halved onion with deep-fried maitake mushrooms on the side for dunking purposes. The brainchild of chef Sol Han, the fried buhsut has quickly become as popular as the original dip that inspired it. “Instead of just giving you sour cream and onion dip, I wanted to utilize the onion as a vessel and provide the experience of using the whole thing,” Han tells InsideHook. “When you open it, there’s an element of surprise. Literally everyone smiles when we serve it. Everyone. It’s pretty simple, but it’s fun.”
A former cook at Manhattan restaurants like Le Coucou and Michelin-starred Ai Fiori who grew up helping out in the kitchen of his parents’ restaurant on Long Island, Han came up with the umami-filled dip as somewhat of a nod to a childhood favorite.
“Growing up, I just loved dip and chips. Ruffles chips with Ruffles sour cream and onion dip is really, really tasty. This is my gourmet version of it,” Han says. “The umami powder really elevates everything. It’s a game-changer we should be putting on everything. It brings next-level flavor. It’s almost like MSG without the MSG.”
Amped up by additional ingredients including caramelized onions and garlic confit, LittleMad’s fried buhsut is only available to customers who order the restaurant’s tasting menu — unless Han makes an exception. “I don’t recommend breaking rules, but they are meant to be broken,” he says. “If you’re sitting at the bar ordering cocktails and are like, ‘Ah, I just want the mushroom,’ maybe we could break some rules and sell it to you.”
Or you could just make it yourself.
LittleMad’s Fried Buhsut
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: About an hour
Servings: 4-6 servings
- ½ cup garlic confit
- ½ cup caramelized onions
- ½ cup dashi (chicken or vegetable stock may be substituted)
- 4 cups sour cream
- 4 whole Spanish onions, unpeeled
- Umami powder (Can be bought on Amazon)
- 1 tablespoon chopped caramelized onion
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- Edible flowers
- 1 cup potato starch
- 2 cups tempura flour
- 4 cups sparkling water
- 2 bunches maitake mushrooms
- 8 cups vegetable oil
- Kosher salt to taste
Directions for the dip
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and roast Spanish onions for 45 minutes until fully cooked.
Slice off top and hollow out 3⁄4 of the onion for another use.
In a blender, add garlic confit, caramelized onion, dashi and sour cream and blend until smooth. Set aside or chill if making in advance.
Add sour cream mix into onion and garnish with umami powder, chopped carmelized onions, chopped chives and flowers.
Directions for the fried maitake
In a large pot, heat the oil to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, evenly combine the potato starch and tempura flour with a whisk. Gently whisk in the sparkling water.
Dip the maitake mushroom into the batter and fry until crispy, remove to a wire rack, and lightly salt and toss in umami powder.
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