Shiitakes have been cultivated in China and Japan for 2,000 years. In Japanese, shii means “from a hardwood tree,” and take means “mushroom.” In its fresh form, the shiitake mushroom has a rich, buttery, meaty flavor quite unlike thee flavors of other mushroom varieties. When dried, the shiitake’s flavors concentrate to a smoky richness.
The shiitake’s texture is also quite different from that of other mushrooms. A fresh shiitake is approximately 75% water, a considerably lower water content than that of many of its cousins. Less water accounts for shiitakes firm-even chewy-texture and intense flavor.
Dried shiitakes are versatile and affordable. Their meaty texture and smoky flavor is great on its own or paired with other varieties. Shiitakes are an obvious choice for Asian dishes, filling out soy-based braises or stews or perking up quick stir-fries.