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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Dried mushrooms vary in color, type and price

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

Dried shiitake mushrooms are also known as Chinese black mushrooms.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Those bags of black, tan or brown mushroom caps you see in Chinatown and in the Asian section of grocery stories are dried shiitake mushrooms, also called Chinese black mushrooms or forest mushrooms.

The dried mushrooms, which are very handy to have in the cupboard, vary in price based on their quality: Whole, caps and darker ones — called "winter black," sometimes — are the most expensive while broken pieces and lighter mushrooms generally cost less. Most are packaged as caps only, with no stems, as the stems are too hard and fibrous to eat.

The mushrooms last six months or so in a cool, dry place in an airtight container, but Linda Bladholm in her "The Asian Grocery Store Demystified" advises throwing a few dried chili peppers in with the mushrooms to prevent bugs or worms. In Hawai'i's steamy climate, a cool, dry place can be difficult to find, so buy the mushrooms in quantities that you plan to use within a few weeks.

To use the dried shiitake, soak them in hot tap water for 20 minutes; gently run your fingers around the gills to remove any grit; squeeze dry; slice away any woody parts; then use in stir-fried dishes, soups or wherever fresh shiitake are called for. The strained mushroom water can be added to stock or broth. Some people like to run them through several rinses of water to remove any off flavors.