Shiitake mushrooms: what they are, properties and recipes

Shiitake mushrooms: what they are, properties and recipes

Shiitake mushrooms have been considered a revered food in Japan and China for more than 2,000 years. Today, along with soya and sushi, it is the most common oriental food in Western dishes. Shiitake has probably become the most popular and cultivated Asian mushroom in the world. But what makes them so special? The reason why this small fruit is so important in their culture is because of its multiple health benefits. Its medicinal properties in combination with its intense flavour and smoky aroma have been the key factors why this mushroom is now a “must” in any kind of cuisine.

What are they?

The word “shiitake” is a Japanese word derived from “shii”, a variety of oak on which this type of mushroom usually grows, and “take”, which means mushroom in Japanese. Shiitake mushrooms are brown in colour, darker in the centre and lighter on the outside. They are easy to recognise by their large cap, which can be up to 25 centimetres in diameter. You can also tell them apart by their earthy aroma and their smooth, juicy texture, which is capable of enrapturing any palate.

This mushroom grows naturally twice a year, in spring and autumn, on the wood of certain trees such as oak, beech, eucalyptus or holm oak. It is also possible to grow it on natural or synthetic substrates, usually made from straw or sawdust. However, the most common way to find them is in dried form, although in Asian countries it is easier to buy them fresh. But be careful! It is important to bear in mind that if you use dried mushrooms, their flavour will be much more intense than in their fresh version and, therefore, the way to cook both versions is also different.

Find out where to buy them

You can buy shiitake mushrooms in our online shop or in our shops in Barcelona and Madrid.

© Diseño web imacreste

Properties

The first written reference to shiitake mushrooms dates back to the Sing Dynasty (960-1127), but it was not until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) that this mushroom began to be prescribed by doctors to treat liver diseases, regulate cholesterol, improve circulation and, in general, preserve health. Since then, this mushroom has been a constant feature in the history of traditional Chinese medicine. However, to this day it is still considered a food with great curative and preventive qualities, and can even be consumed in capsule form. Here is a selection of the main properties that have made this mushroom Asia’s best-kept secret for longevity.

Boosts the immune system

The medicinal properties of shiitake mushrooms are mainly due to one of its components: lentinan. This molecule is known to strengthen the immune system and defences against diseases such as cancer. In addition to being an immunostimulant, lentinan can reduce blood fat levels and the risk of thrombosis.

In relation to cancer treatment, many scientific studies have shown the power of shiitake mushrooms in the prevention and reduction of cancer cells. Specifically, in 2006, a study was carried out in Japan on breast cancer, the results of which showed that these mushrooms were capable of both causing cell death in cancer cells and slowing their growth.

Cardiovascular benefits

Shiitake mushrooms have the highest percentage of fibre of all cultivated mushrooms. Much of this fibre is made up of chitin, a carbohydrate found in shiitake that not only aids digestion, but also helps to control and improve cholesterol. For this reason, it is of great help to people with cardiovascular diseases or hypertension.

The mushroom of eternal youth

Can you imagine all the ingredients for perfect skin in a jar? Shiitake mushrooms are a rich source of minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium. In addition, they contain nine essential amino acids and vitamins B and D2. The perfect cocktail for cell regeneration, healthy skin maintenance and prevention of premature ageing.

Recipes

There are many traditional and innovative recipes using shiitake mushrooms. We wanted to highlight 3 of them that I think you will like.

Ramen soup recipe (Shoyu Ramen)

Ingredients for 4 servings:
4 portions of Ramen noodles (125 to 150 g. per portion).
500 g. pork belly (for the Chashu pork)
4 eggs (for the marinated egg)
1 sheet of Nori seaweed (split into 4)

For the stock
3 l. water
1 kg. chicken bones
½ kg. pork bones
3 dehydrated Shiitake mushrooms
3 large pieces of ginger
2 spring onion stalks
1 carrot
1 head of garlic

For the Tare
300 ml. japanese soy sauce
150 ml. Sake
150 ml. Mirin
1 piece of alga seaweed(about 5 g.)
4 cloves garlic
3 thick slices of ginger
1 spring onion stalk

For the flavoured oil
50 g. spring onion
½ cup vegetable oil (about 120 ml.)

Japanese recipe for miso soup with vegetables and shiitake mushrooms

Ingredients:

Vegetable stock
Ginger
Miso paste
50gr Shiitake
30gr of courgette
30gr carrot
Black sesame

Shiitake a feira

Original recipe where we are going to substitute the octopus for shiitake mushrooms.

Ingredients:

2 potatoes
150 g shiitake mushrooms
1 teaspoon of wakame seaweed
1 piece of kombu seaweed
1 teaspoon salt
1 litre water
Coarse salt
Sweet paprika and hot paprika
Extra virgin olive oil