They’ve been part of our takeaway orders for generations. We explore the history of Chinese/Australian takeaway classics, including the dim sim, lemon chicken and sweet & sour pork.
Fun fact about shiitake—it’s spelled with two Is! Did you know that? I had never noticed until I started to write about them. The more you know.
But I doubt you came here for a spelling lesson. You’re here because you love Asian food and if that’s the case then you’ve definitely eaten shiitake mushrooms. The delicious fungi are more than just padding in spring rolls and stir-fries, however; they’re also surprisingly good for you.
Native to Southeast Asia, shiitake mushrooms grow in bunches on the decaying wood of deciduous trees. Deciduous trees are of course the variety that lose their leaves over winter. And these mushrooms have been eaten by humans for millennia. The earliest evidence of cultivation of shiitake date back to 1209 from Longquan county in southern China, but they would have been gathered and eaten for centuries before then.
Considering the name in popular use is Japanese, it’s no surprise to find out they wrote the book on shiitake cultivation. Japanese horticulturist Sato Churyo wrote the first book on shiitake cultivation in 1796.
Despite their modern-day popularity, shiitake mushrooms were hard to come by back in the day. Until 1982 shiitake could only be grown in traditional locations using traditional methods in Japan, but now they’re grown commercially all over the world, including in Australia.
And that’s great news for us, because shiitake mushrooms are a pretty nutritious little fungi.
They’re high in niacin, vitamin B, potassium and even iron. And the best part is you can just throw them into a whole bunch of great dishes to really lift them over the top.
Try them in your Agedashi Tofu broth to give it a richer, heartier flavour—and a little bit more texture! They’re brilliant in stews and hotpots for similar reasons too. Mushrooms are great for slow cooking in general as they don’t break down to quickly.
They’re fantastic as a meat substitute in spring rolls and san choy bow, or as an add-in if you prefer the meat version.
You can even use them in hand rolls instead of fish or avocado. There’s really no wrong way to use them!
Check out these awesome shiitake recipes!