There’s more to Japanese food than shiitake mushrooms, though that is the one that most of us know the best. We err… grill Chef Shigeru Sato from Threesixty Degrees at The Oberoi Gurgaon on the subject. According to him, the five most commonly used mushrooms include:
Eryngii: the meaty fleshiness of this ‘shroom makes it ideal for just grilling with a bit of salt. It has a pleasantly chewy texture, but you do have to cook it after slicing it lengthwise. You can use it with another couple of ingredients in maki rolls, fry sliced eryngii in tempura or saute them.
Enoki: In their raw form, they look too pretty to eat, with their long, slender stems and delicate caps, but these pure white mushrooms have an irresistible crunchy texture, and so are added right at the end of cooking. They are used in hot-pot and wrapped with bacon as a popular starter.
Meitake: Any variation of the Japanese fried rice called Takikomi Gohan that Chef Sato cooks (usually in his house, for this is quintessential Japanese comfort food) just has to have meitake as one of the mushrooms in it. This mushroom has marked health benefits, especially for lifestyle diseases.
Shiitake: This is one mushroom that is better known in its dried form, at least in India, although you do find the fresh version in select stores. Before you actually cook dried shiitake, it has to be reconstituted in hot water until it becomes fleshy and slightly chewy. Sliced into batons, it can be used in tempura; cut into smaller pieces it is typically used in chawanmushi along with crab-stick and can be combined with another couple of ingredients in maki rolls.
Shimeji: Never eaten raw because of its slightly bitter taste, even a brief cooking time neutralizes the bitterness. It grows in clumps but having thicker stalks than enoki can hardly be substituted for them. Shimeji is famously added to miso soup, hot pot and indeed any nimono (simmered dish).