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Dried Black Mushrooms vs Fresh Shiitakes

Back in my youth, black mushrooms on a Chinese menu inevitably meant reconstituted dried mushrooms. I still remember the first fresh shiitakes I ever ate – in 1983 or 84, at a Japanese Oriental restaurant whose Korean owner/chef grew them himself.

Now fresh shiitakes are common in all sorts of Asian restaurants. Recently, however, I ordered a black mushroom and baby bok choy dish at a local Chinese restaurant and the baby veggies were partly covered with a mound of old-school dried black mushrooms. It was a lovely dish, full of umami.

A few weeks later, at the same restaurant with friends, I ordered the same dish. Only this time, the mushrooms were fresh shiitakes. It was still good, but I found myself missing the intensity of the dried ‘shrooms.

So what do you think? Is one better than the other? Do you prefer one? Should restaurants distinguish between the two?

ed

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  1. I can only compare dried shiitakes to fresh, rather than 2 different types. Both dry and fresh have their place. Reconstituting the dry ones gives you the liquid which can be used to really intensify the overall flavor - perfect for broths, fried rice, etc. But I would use fresh for salads, basically anything served raw. Pan fried/wokked with vegetables is kinda in the middle - I've used both - but I think I still prefer the dried, with even a touch of the liquid.

    There is a big difference between the pre-sliced dried shiitake and the whole dried ones. I buy the pre-sliced for quick reconstituting in the instant soups I drink (osuimono, ochazuke), but prefer the whole ones for cooking use. The whole ones take much longer to reconstitute, but produce much more flavor than the pre-sliced ones.

    1. I like both though I think I prefer the dried for the intensity of flavour. Besides the soaking liquid makes a darn good broth or base for a soup.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mrbozo

        Ditto on the dried, and I would add that cooking takes away the distinct flavor of the shiitake - it is best eaten uncooked.

      2. I do think a restaurant should identify a fresh shiitake as such. And to me, admittedly an older fogey, a black mushroom is always a reconstituted dried one (even though I'm pretty sure it's the same shroom). I think applehome is right. Each has its own place, and in the classic Chinese kitchen, it's generally going to be the black (dried) mushroom. I think they're a fabulous pantry item - keeps a long time, always available.

        1. I'm in the Pacific NW. To me dried black mushroom means someone is going to be feeding me a wood ear mushroom. I'm only keen on them in hot and sour soup, frankly. So yeah, I definitely think a restaurant should distinguish between those and shiitakes.

          Fortunately, fresh shiitakes aren't such a luxury food anymore, and so I don't care so much if a restaurant menu specifies dried or fresh. Both have their place!

          1. In most cooked dishes I prefer the dried for the flavor intensity.