Cook’s Cupboard: dried Asian mushrooms

Beautifully delicate, fresh locally grown oyster, shiitake and wood ear mushrooms can now be found at many supermarkets, greengrocers’ and produce markets. The ones in my picture below came from the Avondale Markets. But you can also buy these same varieties (individually or mixed) dried and packaged, meaning you can keep them in your pantry to be used whenever you fancy a bit of fungi, for a fraction of the price of the fresh ones. To rehydrate the mushrooms ready for use, simply place the desired amount in a bowl, pour over boiling water, cover the bowl and leave for 10 minutes or more, until the mushrooms, including stems, are tender, before draining. The liquid can be reserved for stocks. Oyster mushrooms have a silky texture and slight seafood flavour, wood-ear are slippery with a delightful crunch, while shiitake are prized for their smoky umami (ultra savoury) taste. All three varieties are the perfect thing to add to steaming hot, healthful broths of ginger, garlic or miso – add udon or soba noodles and some greens and you have a quick, light meal. They’re a tasty vegetarian option when it comes to making nibbles. Make rice paper rolls filled with a mixture of wood-ear and shiitake mushrooms, blanched bean sprouts, stir-fried shredded cabbage and carrot, seasoned with soy sauce and a little rice wine. Or mix strips of oyster and shiitake mushroom with sesame oil, mirin, soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds and use to top oblongs of glistening sushi rice, securing in place with a thin strip of nori.