Shiitake mushrooms are my most favorite of all the edible fungi out there. They are available all year round, most of the time dried and packed in small batches. Dried shiitakes intensify in flavor and woodsy undertones, but it’s the fresh ones that I like best. When prepared right, fresh shiitakes have the taste and texture of tender pork—succulent, delectable.
Plus Points. Research tells me shiitakes are rich in anti-oxidants, iron, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Shiitakes are thought to help with warding off diseases, boosting your immune system, helping the liver. They have been used in Chinese medicine for over 6,000 years. But me, I just love them for their taste.
Shop Well. Pick shiitakes that are whole and unblemished. They should be plump, firm, and dry to the touch. Slimy caps mean the shiitakes may no longer be at their freshest. The underside of the caps should be white, avoid buying those that have dark spots.
Store Right. Place fresh shiitakes inside a brown paper bag and store in the vegetable compartment of your fridge. Mushrooms need to breathe, so do not put them inside a plastic bag or else they will turn slimy and sour. Properly stored shiitakes can last up to two weeks in the fridge, that is, if you don’t eat them all up before that.
Prep Tips. I like to clean my shiitakes with a 1-inch paintbrush that I keep in the kitchen for this purpose. Just gently brush away the dirt, you don’t need to scrub vigorously. I clean the mushrooms right before cooking; the less handling, the better. You can trim the stems off if you like, I sometimes leave them if they’re not too tough.
Get Cooking! I’ve cooked shiitakes in omelettes, soups, stews, stuffed with various meats, braised, grilled, stuffed inside chickens, baked, stir-fried, creamed—the possibilities abound. They’re also great in vegetarian dishes as a meat substitute. But I like them best prepared simply: sauteed quickly with garlic and onions, then finished with a dollop of oyster sauce.
Here are a few of my recipes featuring shiitake mushrooms: