How to use… Dried Shiitake Mushrooms

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Virgil Evetts

These rather ropey-looking fungi are widely available in most supermarkets, but are the sort of thing that, unless you’ve tried them before, you will probably instinctively ignore.  I can’t say I blame you either – they look like leaf-litter and are hardly shy on the fragrance front.  But take my word for it – these ugly little munters are shrivelled proof of how very deceptive appearances can be.

You see, shiitake are not only a delicious alternative to regular (and let’s face it often boring) cultivated mushrooms, they’re also considered a ‘super-food’ with proven cancer-fighting and anti-viral properties.  I’m normally pretty cynical of such claims, but the virtues of shitake are one of the few topics upon which both Western and Eastern medical practitioners see eye to eye.  So seriously is this cure-all quality taken in Japan that shiitake are available by state-subsidised prescription.

While I do gain a certain smug satisfaction from all this spin, the real attraction for me is simply that shiitake taste really good.  They have a far more robust, earthy flavour than field mushrooms, with a similar meatiness to porcini.  Shiitake offionados actually prefer the dried form of the mushroom to fresh (which are available in some fruit & vege shops) as the drying process improves the flavour. Dried shiitake can be used in practically any Asian recipe requiring mushrooms and can make an often superior substitute for the same in western dishes.

Before you can use dried shiitake they need to be rehydrated. Simply cover with warm water for 30 minutes to an hour, squeeze dry and snip off the tough stems. When reduced, the soaking liquor makes a dark and meaty stock which works very well in soups and fried noodle dishes.

Once soaked, the shiitake can be sliced and used like any other mushroom. They also make a very fine mushroom salad. This is currently my favourite way with shiitake and is quite dangerously more-ish stuff.

Shiitake Salad

2 cups pre-soaked and squeezed shiitake

4 tablespoon dark soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon chilli oil (optional)

Roughly chop the mushrooms and mix thoroughly with soy, vinegar, and oil. Season to taste.

Doesn’t sound like much, but just you wait…

This salad is a great partner to a decent piece of red meat or a handsome slab of salmon.  Alternatively – and perhaps unexpectedly – it’s freakishly good scattered over a pizza.

Dried shiitake are available at most good supermarkets but are generally far cheaper at Asian supermarkets.

Go out and buy some today.  That’s an order.

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12 thoughts on “How to use… Dried Shiitake Mushrooms

  1. Ӏt’s really effortless to use all you understand, as well as its entertaining too. Aim for functioning to 60 minutes of moderate activity 4 to 5 days per week.

  2. Ground up in your coffee grinder, they make a wonderful mushroom powder.

    I love their heavy, meaty texture and will look forward to trying your salad Virgil.

  3. I recently soaked some shitake (for the first time) to use in spring rolls but they had such an awful pungent aroma I just couldn’t bring myself to use them. I was terrified they would ruin the whole mix. Was it a bad batch or do they always smell that bad? I am a mushroom lover.

    • I don’t think they should smell bad – they should smell like funghi but not awful. I don’t lke terrible smells but I douse shitake.
      I wonder though what possibly could have been wrong with them if anything.
      I think I need to buy some to test the odour/aroma.

    • Judym Shitake do have a distinctive and strong odour- somewhere between marmite and rubber. They dont taste like they smell, but are not everbody’s cup of tea. The flavour is quite meaty.

  4. I tried this last night, with omelets :) It was delicious and I will be linking to you on my blog later on. This is so easy and adds so much flavor to a meal.

  5. Glad you enjoyed it Stephanie. I have noticed that some shiitake seem to take longer than others to soften. Not sure why this is.
    I do variation on the above with truffle oil, balsamico and soy for a more european accented dish. I prefer it to be saltier than sharp but Charlotte likes it the other way around.

  6. Hi Virgil
    Let me start by saying I am not a mushroom fan neither is my son but we all ate the salad and none was thrown away. For me I would reduce the soy sauce next time. I also found the mushrooms I had needed to be soaked for 1- 11/2 hours. So we enjoyed your salad but I think I would prefer them used in a stir fry. I think it is always great to try new things especially with food.