Shiitake is an edible mushroom known for its rich, chewy texture and smoky flavor. Although not native to the Philippines, they have found their place in many Filipino kitchens and are used in many beloved recipes.
What are shiitake mushrooms?
Shiitake mushrooms, native to East Asia, are larger than typical white button mushrooms. They have brown caps that might have white speckles or splits revealing their white insides. The gills and stems underneath are also white.
These mushrooms are known for their umami flavor and meaty texture. They are used in various dishes across Asian cuisines and are available fresh or dried.
Fresh vs. dried shiitake mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms are available in both fresh and dried forms, each with its own unique qualities.
- Fresh: Delicate and slightly earthy, with a vegetal flavor.
- Dried: With a smokier taste and concentrated umami flavor.
- Fresh: Soft, plump, and spongy with a meaty bite.
- Dried: Regains its meaty texture but remains slightly firmer when rehydrated.
- Fresh: Must be refrigerated and consumed within a week.
- Dried: The shelf life is longer and can be kept in a cool, dark place for several months.
- Fresh: Ideal for sautéing, stir-frying, or grilling.
- Dried: Needs rehydration in warm water and is preferred in soups, stews, and sauces to impart a deeper flavor.
- Fresh: Tends to be pricier due to their shorter shelf life.
- Dried: More cost-effective in the long run, especially when purchased in bulk.
- Fresh: Available in the produce section of many supermarkets and specialty stores.
- Dried: Available year-round, in the dried foods aisle, at Asian markets or online.
Health benefits of shiitake mushrooms
According to WebMD, shiitake mushrooms have a dense nutritional profile, as follows:
- Rich in Essential Minerals: A ½ cup serving offers 72% of the daily recommended copper intake and 33% of the recommended selenium intake.
- Vitamin Source: Good amounts of Vitamin D, Potassium, and Magnesium.
- Heart Health: They contain compounds such as eritadenine, which helps reduce blood cholesterol levels, and beta-glucans which inhibit cholesterol absorption in the intestines.
- Immune Boosting Properties: They have anti-inflammatory properties and are packed with polysaccharides and other beta-glucans, which are compounds that protect cells and boost white blood cell production
Healthline notes that shiitakes are low-calorie, fiber-rich, and have amino acids like meat. They can also enhance immune defenses and promote bone health.
While most people can eat shiitake without issues, some might experience potential side effects, including 'shiitake dermatitis', a lentinan-induced rash. Long-term use of powdered extract can also cause stomach issues and heightened sun sensitivity.
Always consult with a healthcare professional for personal health concerns. Individual reactions to foods can vary, and the information presented may not apply to everyone.
Can you eat the stems of shiitake mushrooms?
Yes. The stems of shiitake mushrooms are edible, but they are tougher and woodier than the caps. Many choose to remove them because of their chewy texture.
If you decide to use the stems, it's always a good idea to cook them longer to help soften them. They can impart a rich flavor to broths and stocks.
Can you eat raw shiitake mushrooms?
No. According to Mankato Clinic, eating them raw or undercooked can lead to flagellate dermatitis, an itchy rash. Shiitake mushrooms should be cooked for at least 5-7 minutes until they are tender, with an internal temperature of 266-293°F (130-145°C).
How to prepare shiitake mushrooms
Preparing shiitake mushrooms depends on whether you're using fresh or dried ones. Here's a guide on how to do it:
Fresh shiitake mushrooms
- Cleaning: Gently brush off any dirt or debris using a soft brush or a damp paper towel. I like to quickly rinse them under running water, and then pat them dry.
- Removing Stems: Their stems can be tough and woody, so it's common to remove them. Grasp the stem near the base of the cap and twist it off or use a knife to cut it off.
- Cooking: You can slice or leave them whole, depending on their size or the recipe. They can be sautéed, grilled, baked, or stir-fried.
Dried shiitake mushrooms
- Rehydrating: Soak them in a bowl of warm water for at least 20 minutes or until they are soft. Squeeze out the excess water.
- Removing Stems: Some dried shiitake mushrooms have their stems cut off, which can remain tough after rehydration. It's often best to remove them.
- Using the Soaking Liquid: The water used for rehydrating them becomes a flavorful broth. Strain to remove any dirt or debris, then use it in soups, stews, or sauces.
- Cooking: Once rehydrated, you can use them like fresh ones, although they will have a different texture and a more intense flavor.
Filipino recipes with shiitake mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms are a versatile ingredient that adds texture and flavor. Here are some recipes that incorporate them:
- Braises and Stews: Classic favorites like Pork Asado, Pata Tim, or other Asian dishes like Korean Beef Stew contain mushrooms that absorb the sweet and savory flavors of the sauce.
- Stir-Fried Noodles: Whether you are making Pancit Canton, Pancit Bihon, or exploring non-Filipino dishes like Yaki Udon, these mushrooms add a beautiful texture contrast and umami flavor.
- Lumpia: While Lumpiang Shanghai or Lumpiang Gulay can be filled with anything you fancy, these mushrooms stand out as an excellent choice.
- Siomai: Mincing the mushrooms and incorporating them into the mixture of ground pork add depth and texture to these steamed dumplings.
- Stir-Fries: Shiitakes are a versatile addition to stir-fries, such as Tofu and Asparagus Stir Fry, Eggplant Stir Fry, or Chopsuey.
- Soups: Add these mushrooms to soup broths for a layer of umami, like Almondigas with meatballs and wheat vermicelli noodles.
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