Shiitake mushrooms 香菇 (hoeng¹ gu¹) are very popular in Asian cooking. Growing up, I remember eating them in both everyday dishes at home, and fancy banquet dishes in restaurants. They are used in stir-fries, dumplings, stews, soups, vegetable dishes, etc. They add umami and a satisfying savory flavor to a dish due to their natural glutamates.
Shiitake mushrooms notes:
- They are native to East Asia.
- There are different grades of shiitake mushrooms depending of their quality. The two highest grades are winter mushrooms 冬菇 (dung¹ gu¹) and flower mushrooms 花菇 (faa¹ gu¹):
- You can spot these mushrooms by the cracked white lines on their caps, which resemble flowers.
- Their cap is also plumper and meatier than other shiitake mushrooms.
- They are extremely healthy and nutritious!
- They are packed with a variety of vitamins (especially vitamins B and D) and minerals.
- They are low in calories.
- They are known to promote a healthy immune system and lower cholesterol.
- Take caution if you are eating raw or undercooked shiitake mushrooms!
- Some people can have an allergic reaction to raw or undercooked shiitake mushrooms and develop a skin condition called “shiitake dermatitis”.
Fresh shiitake mushrooms are not as common as white, crimini, or portabella mushrooms in most American grocery stores. They are extremely expensive if you find them at Wholefoods! I usually buy mine at an Asian grocery store. Unfortunately, that store is not very close to our home, so I try to buy a lot at one time. I eat some fresh and then dehydrate the rest for future use.
The taste and texture are quite different between fresh and dried shiitake mushrooms. The fresh ones are soft, silky, and spongy. They are delightful to eat whole or in slices. Although the dried shiitake mushrooms are not as silky, their flavors have been intensified due to the dehydrating process.
Dried shiitake mushrooms are so tasty that they are a delicacy in Hong Kong. People give boxes of dried shiitake mushrooms as gifts to family and friends during Chinese holidays. The dried whole flower mushrooms come neatly lined up in a plastic gift box with a clear top to show off their beauty. Imagine a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates but instead of golden chocolate, it’s filled with flower shiitake mushrooms!
Dried shiitake mushrooms are very versatile. You just need to rehydrate them, and then slice or dice and use as you would any other mushroom. I like to add them to dumplings, bun fillings, pork patties, stir-fries, and soup. I have also used them to elevate “junk food”, like instant noodles or packaged miso soup.
The process of dehydrating shiitake mushrooms is easy, as blanching is not required. All you need are shiitake mushrooms and a dehydrator.
Dehydrating shiitake mushrooms with a dehydrator
Kitchen instrument of the day: Aroma professional 6-tray food dehydrator
- Remove the stems of your shiitake mushroom by twisting the stem while holding the cap in place. The whole stem comes off very easily that way. The stems are too tough to eat, but you can use them to make stock!
- Wash the mushrooms to remove any dirt. Do not soak shiitake mushrooms because they are like sponges and will soak up water.
- Pat the mushrooms dry with a towel.
- Slice the shiitake mushrooms in pieces of similar width to speed-up the drying process. Or skip this step if you want to dehydrate them whole, which will take much longer.
5. Line the mushroom slices, or whole caps, on the dehydrating tray, making sure they don’t touch each other (to ensure even and quick drying).
6. Turn your dehydrator to 135⁰F, or the vegetable setting if your dehydrator doesn’t allow you to select a temperature.
7. Dehydrate the sliced shiitake mushrooms for about 5 hours, depending on their thickness, and then check for d oneness. The slices should be brittle and easily broken into halves. If they can still be bent, they are not done. Check back again in another 30 minutes to an hour. Whole shiitake caps take much longer, about 8-9 hours, depending on their size and thickness. If the caps are very different in size, you may need to take out the smaller ones first.
8. Let the dehydrated shiitake mushrooms cool completely before putting them in airtight containers.
- If you can’t find shiitake mushrooms, you can dehydrate other mushrooms using the same process. Any type of dried mushrooms would be a great addition to your pantry!
- To rehydrate, either soak the dehydrated shiitake mushrooms in cold water for several hours, or in hot water for 15-30 minutes (depending on their size and thickness). Check to make sure they are completely soft in the center before using them in your recipes.
- You can put dehydrated mushrooms in soups or stews without rehydrating them first.
- You can also grind it up to make mushroom powder, and use it as you would other dried herbs and seasonings.