Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mushroom Musings

braised black mushrooms and napa cabbage

Checking in. Still alive, just working gradually on some longer term things like:
  • seasoning my wok (will post about in the future since it's coming along well, and I think I finally have a good handle on how to deal with that, as well as some pointers)
  • la mian hand-pulled noodles, sans machine to knead the dough (this is a tough nut to crack, with so many moving parts, but very interesting. I've made a lot of progress and gained a lot of understanding, but new challenges continue to crop up as old ones are resolved.)
  • assorted new recipes and refining older ones

Dried (Chinese) black mushrooms, aka shiitake mushrooms in Japan, are so fantastically flavorful. Here's what I wonder, though: when the mushrooms are dried, the flavor is concentrated and intensified as the water leaves the mushrooms. But, we have to rehydrate the mushrooms when we use them...so why does the flavor still seem more intense? Maybe not as much water reenters the mushrooms as was originally there. Or maybe there's some other change. Harold McGee notes in On Food and Cooking, that there are enzymes that break down proteins in mushroom stems into amino acids for the cap and gills, making them slightly more savory. Maybe something related to this is going on in the dehydration process. I haven't found an answer for this, yet, so if you happen to know, I'd love to hear it.

Here's an interesting article about dried mushrooms that I found. It notes that some other varieties of mushrooms don't handle dehydration well at all, but black mushrooms are among those that become a different, more flavorful, beast. Also, I love the line, "Omitting dried mushrooms from the shopping list is an exercise in counterproductive food snobbery."

1 comment:

  1. I always find mushrooms and fungi amazing and mysterious. I remember a tree near where we used to live had these absolutely huge mushrooms growing from it - similar to these yet slightly different colors.

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