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The Magic of Mushrooms
The Magic of Mushrooms
Starring in everything from miso soup dashi to beef stroganoff sauce, mushrooms are a delicious yet highly underrated ingredient in traditional dishes and modern cooking. Most describe the fleshy fungus as rich and earthy but, in truth, they encompass a vast world of flavors and textures that make them as versatile as they are delicious.
Most people will recognize the varieties sold commercially in supermarkets, and used as ingredients in kitchens around the world: crunchy enoki, floral chanterelle, delicate oyster, woody porcini, smoky shiitake, spongy morel – the list goes on. Some kinds are much more elusive – Japanese red pine matsutake mushrooms are highly coveted and sell for a whopping price that reflects their rarity, as do seasonal Italian white Alba truffles.
Mushrooms are also as healthy as they are diverse, loaded with daily essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The use of fungi for medicinal purposes can be traced back thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians and Chinese associated the mushroom with good health and longevity. Chicken and Mushroom soup is a traditional Chinese dish still eaten today to boost the immune system. Indeed, one serving of button mushrooms, for example, contains one-third of a person’s daily Vitamin B needs.
As an ingredient, mushrooms are naturally flavorful and so versatile that the possibilities are endless. Whether enjoyed as a hearty side dish or garnish, pickled, stuffed or sautéed, the results are never boring.
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1/ Shimeji
After shiitake and enoki, the shimeji is the third most popular mushroom in Japan. When roasted, sautéed or steamed, it evokes umami aromas and has a mildly nutty flavor.
2/ Button
The Holland button mushroom is widely recognized by cooks and works well as a delicious accompaniment. Sauté chopped champignons with white wine, garlic and aromatic herbs for an excellent hors d’ oeuvre.
3/ Eringi
A popular ingredient in Asian dishes for fall, eringi mushrooms are well-suited to a whole range of cooking styles because of their meaty and flavor-absorbent flesh.
4/ Matsutake
Reputedly the most expensive mushrooms in the world, matsutake are as delicious as they are hard to find. Found only in the wild as nobody has yet learned how to cultivate them.
5/ Portabella
Because they are large, portabella are versatile and packed with an intense taste. The stems add flavor to stocks, and the caps can be chopped up, marinated and enjoyed whole, perfect for barbecue.
6/ Maitake
The maitake, or the “dancing mushroom”, appears almost whimsical – sprouting caps that are large, frilly and bulbous. When cooked, its flavor is deep and nuanced.
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7/ Chanterelle
These orange-gold wild mushrooms can be found from May to November in Europe. Considered a delicacy, with a complex taste and strong aroma.
Enjoy them sautéed or fried in soups or sauces.
8/ Holland Giant
A button mushroom will keep growing as long as it is not picked. Baking in an oven brings out the intense flavor, and their size and shape make them ideal for stuffing.
9/ Termite
The spindly-stemmed termite grows exclusively in Yunnan Province. It has a crisp, almost sweet taste and commonly used as seasoning for soups and broths.
10/ Split Gill
Packed with protein, dietary fiber, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, the split gill mushroom is as healthy as it is versatile, and can be enjoyed in the dishes of various cuisines.
11/ Enoki
Although traditionally used for nabe and soups, the crisp, stringy texture of enoki clusters means they contribute beautifully to other dishes such as salads. They are highly nutritious.
12/ Porcini
The meaty texture of large-stemmed porcini makes them ideal for sautéing, roasting or braising. They also add nuttiness to pastas dishes, pizzas, stews and risottos.