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First Shouk came for the burger, and now they’re coming for your fried chicken too. D.C.’s most popular, entirely vegan, Israeli street food joint (it’s also our only entirely vegan Israeli street food restaurant, but it’s still our favorite!) is gunning for Popeye’s fried chicken throne.

The ‘Shouk’n’, which is made with fried oyster mushrooms, plus nine herbs and spices, isn’t a conventional vegetarian fried chicken spinoff. Unlike Hip City Veg, or many of the other vegetarian spots that use tempeh or other soy products for their fried chicken riffs, Shouk is honestly just frying up some oyster mushrooms, throwing it into a pita with a spicy harissa mayo, (plus some pickles) and calling it a day.

It’s a simple dish that we absolutely had to try, so we tag teamed this baby, and called up a vegetarian (food writer Priya Konings) and an omnivore (me) to taste test the hell out of this and answer the question, would a rose fried chicken by any other name smell as sweet delicious? Or something like that.

Priya’s (vegetarian) Thoughts:

Social media has gone crazy over Shouk’s “Shouk’n.” “It’s amazing!” “It’s actually like fried chicken.” “But how is it so good?” “It’s a vegan fried chicken sandwich!” Truth be told, I’ve been vegetarian for so long I don’t even really remember what fried chicken tastes like, so it’s hard for me to draw a comparison between these vegetarian nuggets and fried chicken. What I can tell you is that shouk’n is D.C.’s newest food craze, and I am on board, whether it’s because shouk’n is vegan version of fried chicken or simply because they are damn good.

The use of oyster mushrooms was genius; the texture is so chewy and almost fleshy I can imagine the how meat eaters are likening them to chicken nuggets. I personally love the nugs served over a bowl of rice and lentils, drizzled in the mayo and laden with sour pickles. They are just so crispy and satisfying. Really, there is no wrong way to eat these bad boys, the key is to order try them in every different version and find your own personal favorite.

Shouk shook us with their veggie burger and they have done it again. Bravo to chef Dennis Friedman and owner Ran Nussbacher– may their creativity continue to shake us to the core!

Kaylee’s (non-vegetarian) Thoughts:

Right off the bat, I have to be honest with you, you’re not going to think this is fried chicken. Maybe if someone made you wear a blindfold and surprised you with it (a very unusual first date perhaps?), you might be convinced, but once you get past the thick crispy exterior (which absolutely has the crunch I crave), you can tell you’re eating a mushroom. A very well fried and and well herbed mushroom, which is not a bad thing.

Shouk models its shouk’n to look and taste more like schnitzel than what you would find in a deeply American tub of fried chicken, so if you go for the pita shouk’n or the bowl shouk’n, you can expect to walk away with some flat and crispy patties of fried goodness, which pairs well with the aforementioned spicy harissa mayo. And speaking of that mayo, I thought the shouk’n pita would be my preferred consumption method, but I really enjoyed cutting to the chase and just dunking the nugs of shouk’n into that mayo.

If you’re a mushroom hater (who are you?), 1. You shouldn’t be afraid of shouk’n and 2. Eating the nugs straight with mayo might actually be the most convincing way to get on board. It’s easier to trick yourself into thinking you’re at the skate rink tucking into some nugs while all the more talented kids skate backwards. It’s been years since I’ve had a chicken nugget (adults eat chicken strips) and it was fun to take a bite of nostalgia while I took a bite of Shouk’n. Could you spot the shouk’n in a blind chicken taste test? Yes. Will you still have fun eating it? Also, yes.