Tuesday, 22 October 2013 22:42

Shiitake mushrooms - easily the tastiest mushroom around

So what are Shiitake mushrooms? Even their name sounds appealing - Shiitake - a bit like something fun you’d do at a party… The word originates from its Japanese name, shiitake (kanji: 椎茸). Shii is the Japanese name of the tree that provides the dead logs on which it is typically cultivated, and take means “mushroom” – tree mushroom so to speak. They have been cultivated in Japan and China for over 2000 years and have become a popular ingredient way beyond the borders of the Asian continent.

The Shiitake mushrooms’ look

is somewhat unusual – fresh they have a crumpled top with a slightly raised leopard-spot-like pattern (photo trusted earth dot com)

... dried they look more like the tree they’ve come from (photo nuts dot com)

Shiitake mushrooms dried

… and when soaked, they get plump and slippery and shiny (photo Mary Anglberger)

Shiitake mushrooms soaked

Shiitake mushrooms’ taste

is equally intriguing – fresh Shiitake mushrooms taste a little buttery and slightly nutty, dried Shiitake mushrooms develop a very distinct smoky flavor. Fresh ones are comparatively firm while dried ones have a more chewy texture that makes them an ideal choice for Asian recipes. Dried Shiitake mushrooms are a very affordable ingredient with a long shelf life (stored in a dry place). Here’s how to use them.

Shiitake mushrooms are also very healthy and have always been a symbol of longevity in Asia because of their health-promoting properties. They are high in iron and shown to support the immune and cardiovascular system.

Shiitake mushrooms are now widely grown all around the world and enjoy particular popularity in the US where many Shiitake growing farms grow them on natural logs. A fascinating process really. Other farms cultivate them in plastic containers with sawdust – also fun to see 

Whether you’ll choose fresh or dried Shiitake mushrooms, you’ll discover that they go with pretty much everything: in Asian dishes, in soups and salads, with vegetables or pasta, in creamy sauces, in quiches and risottos, dumplings and spring rolls – they are the truly magic mushroom!

Recipes with Shiitake Mushrooms

One light and easy recipe that you may want to try for your first go at Shiitake mushrooms areLettuce – Shiitake Mushroom wraps

The ingredients you’ll need are: garlic, ginger, green onions , oyster sauce, dried, soaked dates to blend into a syrup,  red bell pepper, cashew nuts, water chestnuts. All this will then be placed on a leaf of lettuce and sprinkle with sesame seeds and shredded carrots and a drizzle of spicy sauce if you like. You could also add a spring roll wrapper as an outer layer (soaked in warm water for about 40 seconds). Here’s how

There’s also a fantastic book I’ve just come across with a great selection of Shiitake recipes ‘The Shiitake Way: Vegetarian Cooking with Shiitake Mushrooms’ by Jennifer Snyder. It includes soups, sauces, sandwiches, appetizers, main courses…

In whichever way you decide to enjoy your Shiitake mushrooms, you are likely to love them and keep some in your pantry henceforth

Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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