Shiitake mushrooms have quickly gained popularity in the United States. Their origin can be traced back to Asia, where natives used them for medicinal purposes.
Shiitake mushrooms are a popular ingredient in Asian cuisine. They can either be dark grey or brown. You can also buy them dried or fresh depending on your preference.
These mushrooms quickly gained popularity because of their numerous health benefits. They are as tasty as they are nutritious.
Shiitake mushrooms are difficult to find in the United States. If you come across them in a supermarket, you may wonder, why are shiitake mushrooms so expensive? The answer is simple. Their demand is higher than the supply hence the high prices.
This article will discuss everything you need to know about shiitake mushrooms, including the various types, what they look like, their flavor, where to buy them, how to choose the best shiitake mushrooms, and how to store them properly.
Additionally, we will discuss the benefits of shiitake mushrooms. Let’s dive in.
What are Shiitake Mushrooms?
Shiitake mushrooms are a popular mushroom variety. They are commonly used in soups, stir-fries, risotto, and several other recipes.
Shiitake mushrooms are as delicious as they are healthy. You can buy them fresh or dried and use them in your recipes.
Compared to other mushroom varieties, shiitake mushrooms are a bit pricy.
Types of shiitake mushrooms
There are several types of shiitake mushrooms available in the market. They include; Chabana Donko, Tenpaku Donko, Koshin, and Yori.
- Chabana Donko is a shiitake mushroom variety specifically grown during winter. They have cracks on their caps and thick flesh.
- Tenpanku Donko is the highest quality variety of shiitake mushrooms. Like Chabana Donko, they are grown in the winter and have cracks on their caps due to low temperatures.
- Koshin shiitake mushrooms have thin caps and a very distinct aroma. Most people use them in rice and soup dishes.
Yori shiitake mushrooms have a thin, open cap. They are mostly available during New Year celebrations.
What do shiitake mushrooms look like?
Generally, shiitake mushrooms are dark brown or dark grey.
Their caps are large and shaped like umbrellas. They also have thin, tough, cream stems that are too tough to eat.
Compared to other mushroom varieties, shiitake mushrooms have a distinct appearance. You are unlikely to confuse them with other mushroom varieties.
What do shiitake mushrooms taste like?
The flavor of shiitake mushrooms is similar to that of Portobello mushrooms. However, it is more intense and richer in comparison.
It has a meat-like umami flavor, and most people use it to replace meat in vegetarian dishes like lasagna or veggie burgers.
Note that the flavor of dried shiitakes is more intense compared to that of fresh shiitakes.
Where to buy shiitake mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms are a little difficult to find. Unlike other mushroom varieties, you may not get them in your local grocery store.
You can buy shiitake mushrooms in major supermarkets. If you don’t, check-in with Asian supermarkets. Most stores have the option of both dried and fresh shiitake mushrooms.
You can buy fresh shiitake whole, or sliced. The whole ones last longer compared to sliced ones, so I highly recommend buying them whole.
To get the best out of shiitake mushrooms, you should only choose the ones of good quality. I’ll share a few tips on how to choose the best shiitake mushrooms below.
Tips on how to choose the best shiitake mushrooms
If you can, avoid buying pre-packaged shiitake mushrooms. You must scrutinize each mushroom to ensure that they are all of good quality.
If there is one low-quality or spoiled shiitake mushroom in the package, the other mushrooms that come into contact with it are likely to go bad too.
When choosing mushrooms, go for the ones that have thicker caps. When cooked, they will give you a meaty bite.
If you are trying to reduce the cost, go for mushrooms with short or skinny stems. After all, the stems are too tough, and most people discard them. I don’t eat the stems of shiitake mushrooms.
While choosing shiitake mushrooms, I recommend going for those imported from Japan instead of those imported from China.
Shiitake mushrooms imported from Japan are of better quality.
It would be best if you always chose shiitake mushrooms that look fresh. If they look slimy or mushy, do not buy them. Additionally, they should not have an unpleasant smell.
I also advise against buying sliced shiitake mushrooms. It may seem like the real deal since you won’t have to slice them before cooking, but their quality may not be as good.
Other than drying out and becoming chewy, you may end up with spoilt mushrooms.
How to properly clean shiitake mushrooms
You must clean shiitake mushrooms thoroughly before using them in your recipes. Note that mushrooms grow close to the ground and, as a result, pick up a lot of dirt.
Clean shiitake mushrooms the way you clean other mushroom varieties. Do not soak them in water. Instead, use a damp paper towel to clean each mushroom individually.
Alternatively, you can rinse them under running water. Just be sure to dry them to get rid of the extra moisture.
Cooking with shiitake mushrooms
If you buy dry shiitake mushrooms, you will have to rehydrate them before using them in your recipes.
To rehydrate dried shiitake, soak them in warm water for twenty minutes. The mushrooms must remain submerged throughout, so you can place a plate on top of them.
For better results, you can soak them in cold water overnight. Once they are soaked, drain the water, then add the mushrooms to your recipes.
If your recipe has a short cooking time, e.g., stir fry dishes, you should cut the mushroom into smaller pieces for them to cook faster.
If your recipe takes a long time to cook, you can cook the mushrooms whole. You can bake, sauté, or fry shiitake mushrooms.
How to properly store shiitake mushrooms
Most stores package fresh shiitake mushrooms in plastic packaging.
Once you get home, you should remove the mushroom from the packaging.
Line a paper bag with a paper towel, place the mushrooms in the paper bag and store it in your refrigerator.
The paper towel will absorb any extra moisture and consequently extend the shelf life of the mushrooms.
If you store fresh shiitake mushrooms properly in your refrigerator, they will last for approximately seven days.
Store dried shiitake mushrooms in an airtight container, then store the container in a cool, dry place.
It is also critical that you keep the mushrooms dry and far away from any source of light.
To make them last even longer, add a desiccant to the container. The desiccant will absorb the extra moisture hence extending the shelf life of the mushrooms.
Benefits of shiitake mushrooms
Here are a few benefits of shiitake mushrooms.
- They are super nutritious since they contain fiber, protein, Vitamin B5, Vitamin D, among other nutrients.
- It can boost your immune system.
- Can promote weight loss.
- May enhance skin health.
- Improves digestion.
- It contains vitamin B, which may boost your energy levels.
Shiitake mushrooms are a very popular mushroom variety. They originated from Asia but have quickly gained popularity in Europe and the United States.
The reason why shiitake mushrooms are so expensive is that the demand is higher than the supply.
Additionally, shiitakes require wood to grow and take longer to grow to harvestable size, unlike other mushroom varieties that grow on composted manure.
My favorite thing about shiitake mushrooms is that they are available all year round. If you like other mushroom varieties but have never tried shiitake mushrooms, you are missing out.
They are a little pricy, but the unique rich flavor is worth it. Try shiitake mushrooms today, and let me know your experience in the comments below.