Of all the cultivated mushrooms, Shiitake is closest in taste and aroma to its wild ancestors. The larger the mushroom, the tastier it is and the denser its flesh. In terms of worldwide popularity, shiitake mushrooms are second only to one mushroom — ordinary button mushroom. In Japanese, “shii” means “oak”, that is, shiitake is “mushrooms of the oak tree.” The Chinese learned to cultivate these mushrooms nearly a thousand years ago, and today they are grown all over the world on a mixture of sawdust and rice husks.
What is special about shiitake mushrooms? Shiitake is an exotic mushroom that grows on the dead wood of the shea tree in Japan, Korea, China, and some Southeast Asia countries, where it has long been used in folk medicine and is considered the “elixir of life.” Shiitake cultivation was first started in Japan about 2000 years ago.
Now the annual world production of shiitake is about 500 thousand tons, of which at least 150 thousand tons are produced in Europe: in England, in France, in Holland. It is also grown in Canada and the USA. But the main producer is still Japan, where this mushroom is one of the most important export items.
Shiitake Mushrooms Taste
What do shiitake mushrooms taste like? Shiitake tastes like porcini and button mushrooms. Shiitake has a rich, earthy, creamy and buttery taste and unique smoky aroma. Fresh shiitake has a distinct woody aroma and caramel flavor. The structure is soft and slippery. Dried shiitake mushrooms have a stronger aroma and taste than fresh ones.
The taste of shiitake resembles porcini mushrooms, and its protein contains a full set of essential amino acids, while fats do not contain cholesterol. Therefore, shiitake is gourmet food. It is consumed fresh in salads or in first and second courses.
Do shiitake mushrooms taste good? Shiitake mushrooms do taste good and have become a real delicacy for their unique meaty, earthy and creamy flavor and rich aroma. Even though shiitake mushrooms resemble porcini and button mushrooms, they are still very different and grow mainly in Japan, Korea, China.
Those who have tried shiitake say that they taste different from other mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms have a stronger flavor and aroma than other mushrooms. Fresh shiitake usually has a woody aroma and creamy, caramel flavor, while dried shiitake tastes more earthy and meaty.
Both fresh and dried shiitake mushrooms are in great demand in Japan. Unlike other cultivated mushrooms, shiitake stores well. At temperatures from 0°C to + 20°C and air humidity from 85 to 95%, the mushrooms remain fresh for two to three weeks. Still, up to 80% of grown mushrooms are used in dried form.
Shiitake mushrooms are widely used in Japanese, Korean and Chinese cuisine. In every sushi bar, you can find dishes with this valuable product. There are many ways to process shiitake. They can be boiled, fried, salted, pickled, dried and frozen.
Fried shiitake mushrooms are often found in chicken and fish dishes. They are used for pasta, noodles, rice and soups. Shiitake mushrooms go well with onions, almonds, walnuts and spices. A useful feature for which everyone appreciates this product is the ability to delicately complement other ingredients’ flavours without interrupting them.
Shiitake Mushrooms Price
Shiitake mushrooms are pretty expensive, with the price varying from $12 to about $24 per pound, while a pound of button mushrooms will cost only $3. Shiitake mushrooms are a real delicacy among gourmets, and they need more than 3 months to grow. This process is costly and requires constant attention.
Why are shiitake mushrooms so expensive? Shiitake mushrooms are so expensive as the process of shiitake cultivation is long (3 months) and costly. Far fewer commercial growers grow shiitake mushrooms than those who grow more commonly sold mushrooms like button mushrooms. Since shiitake mushroom cultivation is quite rare, they become more expensive.
In cooking, shiitake are valued mainly for the fact that they absorb the flavor of other food, enriching it. Shiitake is one of the indispensable ingredients in stews, which include meat (usually beef) and vegetables. Shiitake can also be grilled or pan-fried. The stems of the mushrooms are very much inferior to the caps in taste, and they are much more fibrous than the head.
Dried shiitake is usually cooked with spices and then used in vegetables, chicken, and noodle soups. In oriental cuisine, shiitake is also used in carbonated drinks, candy and even used in the production of potassium-rich healing yogurt.
Are Shiitake Mushrooms Better Than Other Mushrooms?
Shiitake has excellent taste and aroma, soft, pleasant texture and is rightfully the king of cultivated mushrooms. It is a great food for vegetarians and those who are struggling with obesity. Koreans put them first in taste among other mushrooms, preferring soups made from dried mushrooms or from their powder.
The Japanese put Shiitake first for taste among other mushrooms. Soups made from dried shiitake or from their powder are especially popular in Japan. Fresh shiitake has a pleasant mushroom scent with a slight admixture of radish scent. Mushrooms, dried at a temperature not higher than 60°C, smell the same or even better.
Fresh shiitake can be eaten raw without boiling or any other cooking. During boiling or frying, the specific, slightly pungent taste and smell of raw shiitake becomes more mushroomy.
Shiitake is a source of vitamins (D, B, C, retinol), as well as minerals. Mushrooms are rich in calcium, magnesium, sodium, iron, zinc, selenium, potassium. They are rich in amino acids and fatty acids. Raw mushrooms are powerful antioxidants, as they contain coenzyme Q10, the main property of which is the rejuvenation of the body. For this reason, shiitake has found application in cosmetology.
Mushrooms are rich in polysaccharides that stimulate interferon production. From this follows another indispensable property of oriental mushrooms — they increase immunity. Dried ground mushrooms are used to make medicine, the effect of which is comparable to the action of ginseng.
Raw and dry mushrooms lower cholesterol, thereby preventing blood clots. With their help, they treat diabetes mellitus, as well as complications that arise as a result of the disease. Shiitake ground is an excellent way to detoxify the body and improve the functioning of the nervous system.
Mushrooms have a beneficial effect on the entire digestive tract. In this regard, they have found application in the treatment of diseases of the stomach, liver, gall bladder, and intestines. Shiitake is a real boon for those looking to lose weight. They stimulate the breakdown of fats and improve metabolic processes in the body.