Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Braised Shitake Mushrooms

For years I struggled with cooking shitake mushrooms. They are very different from most other varieties: unlike oyster or enoki, they are very resilient and are never in danger of breaking up while cooking. Unlike European field, chestnut or white mushrooms, they barely sweat while cooking. Undercooked shitake is unpleasant and very chewy, so I really needed a better method than just frying and hoping.

At last I found a good method, in a recipe book I hadn't used in years, simply called 'Japanese Cooking'. I recall I bought it in a Borders sale, years before they went bust...  Anyway. The technique is to braise the mushrooms: rapidly fry them over a high heat to give some caramelisation, then add flavoured liquid, cover and cook on a low heat for at least 20 minutes. Like braising sausages or chicken, this method gives them a nice smoky outer flavour, but cooks their tough proteins all the way through, leaving them soft and succulent. The liquid reduces, leaving a delicious sauce that can be varied with whatever flavours you wish to add. The recipe below serves one person, but can easily be scaled up.


  • 75g sesame seeds
  • 10 fresh shitake mushrooms, or dried, rehydrated for 24 hours
  • 100ml hot water or stock (if you use bouillon, reduce the amount of soy sauce you add)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar

Dry-fry the sesame seeds in a non-stick, heavy-based frying pan, remove when golden, and set aside. After wiping and checking over for odd bits, slice the shitakes into thick slices, making sure to cut through the tougher stalks. (Some people remove these entirely but I think it's a bit of a waste.) Fry the mushrooms over a high heat in a little vegetable oil; they will immediately absorb it but don't be tempted to add more. They will start to hiss as the steam escapes; turn frequently for five minutes until they have taken on a golden hue.

Pour the rest of the ingredients into the pan, stir to combine, cover and immediately reduce the heat to low. Braise for 25 minutes, stirring and turning occasionally, and adding more water if the pan shows signs of going dry. Serve topped with the sesame seeds: this goes well with stir fry and salads, or you could even drop them into a broth of noodles and greens.

No comments:

Post a Comment