Mushroom is considered a medicinal food in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Dried mushrooms are hard and they need to be soaked in water to softened. When I first started cooking and had very little time, I rarely use dried mushroom in my cooking as it takes too long to prepare and cook.
However, things changed when I learned of its health benefits, its high glutamate content, and since I got a pressure cooker. I’ve been using this ingredient a lot more and have a container of them in my pantry at all times. I often use it to get the rich umami flavour so I don’t need to use chicken stock or MSG to make my food taste delicious.
Research shows that shiitake mushroom extract can be used for treating high cholesterol, liver inflammation, gastric cancer and cervical carcinoma.
Taste, smell & texture
Fresh, dried black mushrooms are very fragrant. Perhaps, that is why it also called xiang gu (香菇) in Mandarin, which translates to ‘fragrant mushroom’.
Dried mushrooms intensify the mushroom flavour by more enzyme activity and browning reaction between amino acid and sugar. Amongst many types of mushroom, this variety is especially flavourful because it contains sulfur compound which gives it a meaty aroma. It also has a meaty texture when cooked. Now you know why mushrooms are used by vegetarians to replace with meat!
- English name: Chinese black mushrooms/ Shiitake mushrooms
- Malay name: Cendawan shiitake kering
- Chinese name: Xiang Gu (香菇). Other variety: Tung gu (冬菇) and Fa gu (花菇)
How to use
Before soaking the mushrooms, I normally remove stems to keep to make stock. Then, I soak the mushrooms until they turn soft. It’s recommended to soak in room temperature water overnight, or if you need it fast, soak in boiling water for 10 – 15 minutes. I also use a smaller plate to cover the mushrooms so that it will be totally submerged in water.
Remember to not throw the water away. It contains flavourful umami flavour which I use in my cooking. For example, if I soak mushrooms to make claypot chicken rice, I’ll use the soaked water instead of plain filtered water to cook the rice.
How to choose good quality mushrooms
The general rule is: the more expensive it is, the better quality it will be. But that’s a lazy and surely not a fool-proof way to select quality mushrooms.
Instead, inspect the thickness and aroma of the mushroom. Good quality mushroom should be thick and have a strong aroma with earthy notes. Lower quality mushrooms smells dusty as though its disintegrating.
Store in a dark and dry place. It should last for years.