The origin of shiitake
Shiitake is a mushroom that has been used in China and Chinese food for a long, long time. The first written reference cropped up in 1209 – which was during the Chinese Song dynasty. That reference is simply a 185-word passage in which shiitake cultivation was described at length. That passage is reviewed, altered, and referenced throughout the history of people writing about shiitake cultivation. The most important reference of that type is in 1796, which was when the first proper book on shiitake cultivation was written.
That book made reference to cutting sections of shii trees out and replacing them with logs that were known to have shiitake spores within them. This method continued for a long time, up until the eighties! In 1982, a report was published which showed that the mushrooms could be commercialised and cultivated worldwide – this led to lots of people being able to access them.
Shiitake is now the second most cultivated mushroom in the world – it is adored for its use in alternative medicine and its delicious culinary uses. It has seen a lot of success with a number of medical studies looking into potential usages for a number of different treatments.
Shiitake has been around long enough that it has seen a number of years of use as both food and medicine. Before modern science, herbal remedies were all that was on offer. Therefore, shiitake mushrooms were featured predominantly!
Shiitake flavor profile
The flavor of shiitake is something that’s utterly mushroomy. That’s very much a cop-out, but it’s the best way to get someone to think about what to expect.
The mushroom itself has a very intense umami flavor. Umami is often described as ‘meatiness without salt’ – it’s a savoury flavor, though it’s not intensely salty.
When they’re cooked, shiitake mushrooms tend to keep this umami flavor profile, though they also gain a number of lovely notes from whatever you cook them with. A number of people do say, though, that when shiitake mushrooms are cooked, they develop a creamy, buttery flavor that’s very rich and tasty indeed.
The flavors of shiitake develop as they cook so that the end product is often something much more intense than the raw mushroom.
Use of shiitake in sushi and everywhere else
Sushi is a wonderful way to create little parcels of flavor. This means that shiitake is often used to impart a powerful, strong base that will bring a strong savory note to the overall taste of a roll.
When making sushi with shiitake, the mushrooms are often cooked. This is done because it both enhances their flavor and also allows you to add flavors of your own choosing. For example, garlic is often sauteed with the mushrooms, making for an intensely hereby and rich mouthful. To enhance the inherent flavor of shiitake mushrooms, though, we would suggest sauteing in sesame oil and soy sauce. These sauces will boost the dark, meaty notes of the mushroom, leading to a really delicious and fascinating roll at the end.
Where can I get Shiitake mushrooms?
Shiitake mushrooms, as most sushi ingredients, can be purchased at Asian markets and food stores, or online. Below is a suggested link for purchasing via amazon.