I love to be in the sun during summer months because our skin cells makes vitamin D, which is indispensable to our bone health.
But, not just us, shiitake mushrooms also benefit from being sun-bathed. A chemical, ergosterol, a precursor to vitamin D, in the mushrooms converts to vitamin D when they are exposed to sunlight.
I tend to purchase a bulk of dried shiitake mushrooms during the summer , select sunny and dry days and leave them in the sun for 2 days or so – 5 hours a day. This process is said to boost the vitamin D in the dried shiitake mushroom.
I was recently in ChinaTown for dim sum lunch. After the meal I walked around the ChinaTown to look for the best quality shiitake mushrooms. It is strange that these quality mushrooms are not available at Asian or Japanese food stores. They are rather sold at Chinese Herbal stores. The mushroom in search was “donko” shisitake mushrooms. Japanese food stores carry this variety, but as I mentioned before the quality is very different. Chinese Herbal store “donko” is the meatiest in texture and the most flavorful. Also the color of the mushrooms are light beige and the turtle shell-like patternon on the surface of the cap is very distinctive.
After drying in the sun I cooked it with little kombu and flavored it with sugar, mirin and shoyu. I store this bulk, strongly flavored mushrooms in the freezer and use them in different dishes. Thinly sliced as noodle toppings, chpopped fine and mixed with sushi rice, shredded as salad toppings, or serve as is as an accompany to protein dish to enjoy the true mushroom flavor and texture. You can find the recipe of cooking dried shiitake mushrooms in The Sushi Experience.
Several tips of cooking superior quality donko shiitake mushrooms;
1. Soak mushrooms in water overnight plus half a day.
2. Before soaking mushrooms rinse them thoroughly.
3. Reserve the water in which the mushrooms were soaked. Use the water water to cook the mushrooms.