Simmered Shiitake Mushrooms
When you purchase dried shiitake mushrooms, choose ones with thick, meaty, and plump caps that are not spread open. On the surface of these plump caps, you will see a cracked pattern resembling the shell of a turtle. Bring a piece close to your nose; it should smell sweet and aromatic. This is the donko mushroom (the Mercedes of shiitake mushrooms), and the price is twice that of lesser varieties—those with thin, flat, opened caps and thin stems—but the flavor and aroma are at least four times better. I highly recommend this extravagance.
The prepared mushrooms will keep their taste and quality for three to four days in the refrigerator. Simmered mushrooms are used over and over again in this book, so I suggest that you prepare a batch and freeze them, or cook half the portion. The mushrooms are used whole, sliced, or chopped.
Total Timea day or more
Make Ahead RecipeYes
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Taste and Texturejuicy, salty, savory, sweet, umami
- 1/8 pound dried shiitake mushrooms (about 14), preferably donko variety
- ¼ cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce)
- 1½ tablespoons mirin (sweet cooking wine)
Rinse the shiitake mushrooms under cold running tap water and soak them in a large bowl of cold water overnight.
The next day, remove the mushrooms from the water, reserving the soaking liquid. Put the mushrooms in a medium pot with enough of the reserved soaking liquid to barely cover them. Set the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil; turn the heat to medium-low and cook, covered with a drop lid or a parchment paper disk, for 30 minutes. Skim off any foam that rises during cooking. Add the sugar and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Add half the soy sauce and continue to cook, covered, for 10 minutes, or until about 85 percent of the liquid is absorbed. Add the remaining soy sauce (shoyu) and the sweet cooking wine (mirin); turn the heat to medium-high and cook the mushrooms, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the liquid is almost absorbed and the mushrooms are coated with a layer of glossy, syrupy sauce. Drain the mushrooms in a strainer and turn them over several times to cool them quickly, discarding the cooking liquid. Store the cooled mushrooms in the refrigerator or freezer. Before using, cut off the stems. The cook can enjoy them as a snack.
2006 Hiroko Shimbo