Shiitake mushroom (Lentinus edodes). しいたけ、椎茸.
The best known of Japanese fungi. Can easily be preserved by drying. Extensively cultivated.
Named after a tree called "shii," the chestnut-oak (Pasania cuspidata), plus "take," "mushroom; shiitake are cultivated in spring and autumn by inoculating the logs of this tree.
Native to China and Japan. The second most cultivated mushroom in the world. Packed with health-promoting qualities.
Fresh shiitake are dark brown. The mushroom is best when the velvety caps are still a bit curled under. Shiitake have a distinctive, "woodsy" flavor. They are full of amino acids and thus, umami. Shiitake add depth and flavor to every dish.
Inner meat is beige. When the caps are used whole, often a decorative cross is carved into them. Large caps can also be cut in half. Chopped into small pieces for use in soups.
Fresh shiitake is eaten as tempura, in hotpot dishes, but also as-is, just lightly salted or brushed with oil and then grilled. The dried ones are in the first place used for making stock - vegetarian stock can be made by adding them to kelp instead of katsuobushi. Usually, only the caps are eaten - the stems are used for stews or stock.
[Photo Ad Blankestijn]