Made from dried shiitake mushrooms, Simmered Shiitake Mushrooms is a traditional make-ahead dish that can be kept in the fridge or freezer for a long time. Shiitake mushrooms are cooked in a sweet soy sauce until the liquid almost evaporates and becomes glossy.
I once received a big bag of dried shiitake mushrooms as a present. Considering the use-by date, I had to come up with many dishes that use dried shiitake mushrooms. Today’s dish, Simmered Shiitake Mushrooms is one of them.
The beauty of this dish is that you can make a lot and store the leftovers in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a couple of months. When defrosted, you don’t find that the flavour and texture are compromised at all.
Correct Way to Rehydrate Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
When in a hurry, you often rehydrate dried shiitake mushrooms in hot water to accelerate rehydration. But this is not the right way. Dried shiitake mushrooms need to be rehydrated in water for a minimum of 6 hours (up to 2-3 days) in the fridge. Rehydrating them in the fridge is the key.
When dried mushrooms are rehydrated, guanylic acid (= umami) gets extracted from the shiitake mushrooms and diluted into the water. The water temperature to extract most guanylic acid is 5C/41F.
Therefore, if you use hot water or heat up a bowl of dried mushrooms and water in a microwave to rehydrate quickly, you don’t get umami out of it very much. In addition, using hot water makes the mushrooms a bit bitter.
When you are using dried shiitake mushrooms for cooking, I am afraid you will need to plan ahead for time to rehydrate them.
Flavouring of Simmered Shiitake Mushrooms
Rehydrated mushrooms are cooked in shiitake dashi (the liquid in which dried shiitake mushrooms are rehydrated) + soy sauce + mirin + sugar. The flavour is slightly strong as it is a make-ahead dish to keep for a while. And it’s 100% vegetarian!
Each household has a different proportion of flavouring ingredients and my recipe is probably a little bit light on sugar, as always.
The ratio of these ingredients is: shiitake dashi 40 + soy sauce 3 + mirin 3 + sugar 2.
In my recipe, I used 600ml/1.3pt shiitake dashi + 3 tbsp (45ml/1.5oz) soy sauce + 3 tbsp (45ml/1.5oz) mirin + 2 tbsp (30ml/1oz) sugar to cook 100g of dried shiitake mushrooms.
If you have a sweet tooth, you may want to increase the amount of sugar to 3 tablespoons.
Rehydrated shiitake mushrooms are cooked in the sauce for about 25 minutes. When the sauce starts boiling, a lot of scum (whitish bubbly substances as you can see in the top photo below) surfaces a lot. It is very important to remove the scum as much as possible as it spoils the flavour. When hardly any sauce is left in the pot, the mushrooms are ready to serve (see the bottom photo below).
Great Make-ahead Dish
Japanese people love to have a variety of small side dishes along with a main dish served at the table. And I am no exception. When I cook dinner and feel that I might need one more dish on the table, make-ahead dishes help me fill the gap.
A typical make-ahead dish is pickled vegetables. But vegetables and/or meat simmered in a soy sauce based sweet sauce are also a popular make-ahead dishes as they keep for a long time in the fridge.
Simmered shiitake mushrooms are great for the bento box, too. They are also used in sushi, particularly Chirashizushi (scattered sushi, coming soon!).
Depending on the size of the dried mushrooms, you can serve them whole or cut into smaller pieces. If the size of the mushrooms is larger than the bite-size, cut it into halves or quarters so that they are easier to pick up and eat. You could also slice the mushrooms thinly to serve for a change.
Because the taste of Simmered Shiitake Mushrooms is salty and sweet, it goes very well with rice. You can add it as a topping for noodles, too.
PS: I added a new section ‘MEAL IDEAS’ below the recipe card. It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and the new recipe in this post that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you!
Made from dried shiitake mushrooms, Simmered Shiitake Mushrooms is a typical make-ahead dish that can be kept in the fridge or freezer for a long time. It is a handy side dish when you need to add one more dish to the meal.
Total Time does not include time to rehydrate shiitake mushrooms. Servings is assuming it is served as a small side dish.
Fill an air tight container or a bowl with 1L/2.1pt water and soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in it. Cover and leave it overnight (6-7 hours+) in the fridge (note 1).
Remove the stem of the rehydrated mushrooms, discard the stems and place the mushrooms in a saucepan. Do not discard the mushroom liquid as it is the shiitake dashi.
Put the shiitake dashi through a sieve and get rid of black bits in the liquid.
Measure 600ml/1.3pt (note 2) of shiitake dashi and add to the saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan and heat over medium heat.
When it starts boiling, scum (whitish bubbly substances) surfaces quite a lot. Remove the scum using a ladle as much as possible (note 3).
Place a drop lid on (note 4) and cook for 15 minutes.
Remove the drop lid and cook further 5-10 minutes until only a small amount of liquid remains (note 5).
1. It’s ok to leave it in the fridge up to 3 days.
2. If the amount of shiitake dashi is not enough, add water.
3. When removing scum, I use a bowl filled with water and rinse the ladle in it each time after scooping the scum from the pot. I do this because the scum tends to stick to the bottom of the ladle and it goes back to the pot next time when you try to scoop new scum.
4. A drop lid is called 'otoshibuta' (落し蓋) in Japanese. It is a round lid that is slightly smaller than the opening of a saucepan. It is traditionally made of wood but I have a stainless-steel lid. It is placed on top of the ingredients in a pot to ensure the heat is evenly distributed, ingredients cook faster, and stay in place without breaking apart. It also stops the liquid from evaporating quickly.
If you don’t have a drop lid, you can make one with aluminium foil. Cut a square in foil, fold the edges to make it a round shape with the diameter slightly smaller than the pot. Then poke the foil with a knife or a chopstick to make holes in several places.
5. If you are intending to serve Simmered Shiitake Mushrooms as a side dish, you may leave more liquid so that the dish looks nicer with some liquid in it. If making this dish for bento for example, you may not want to leave too much liquid.
6. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a couple of months. When defrosted, you don’t find that the flavour and texture are compromised at all. Defrost in the fridge or outside if not too hot.