The shiitake mushroom was well-known from Japanese and Chinese cuisine, but it was only some thirty years ago that French chefs seriously began experimenting with the Shiitake mushroom and including it in French cuisine.
Fresh shiitake in the market.
The “Champignon” shiitake was, at the outset, only seen in France as a dried import but as the first French farmed shiitake mushrooms entered the French market, it became widely identified with its umami taste that was a new concept in French cuisine. That along with its meaty texture made it a success. (The umami taste is an earthy, savory flavor that highlights other tastes. It is the fifth taste identified by our taste bud receptors and is added to our other tastes sweet, sour, bitter and salty).
Shiitake mushrooms on French Menus:
Fricassée de Ris de Veau aux Lentins de Chêne sur Lit d’Epinards–
A stew of veal sweetbreads
prepared with shiitake mushrooms and served on a bed of spinach.
Risotto Carnaroli aux Mousseron et aux Shiitake
– A risotto of the wild St. George’s mushroom and the shiitake mushrooms using carnaroli
rice is grown over the French border in the Italian region of Piedmont; which is the same region that produces the Arborio and Baldo rice. Carniola is considered, by the cognoscenti, and that includes all French chefs, to be even better for risottos than the other two varieties of rice.
The Chinese were farming Shiitake mushrooms at least 400 years before the earliest western success that would lead to France cultivating the Champignon de Paris, the button mushroom.
The French words chêne means oak and the shiitake was traditionally grown on oak tree logs which give it one of its French names, the Lentin de Chêne.
Kohlrabi salad with roasted shiitakes
Shitake mushrooms have the umami taste that enhances the taste of other foods; these, savory, taste buds receptors were pinpointed by the scientist Kikunae Ikeda in Japan in 1907; the Japanese word umami indicates savory and delicious. Ikeda gave this taste its name and also patented the umami seasoning that contains MSG (monosodium L-glutamate) that he identified.
(Catalan – xiitake), (Dutch – shiitake), (German –shiitakepilz), (Italian – fungo giapponese),(Spanish – hongo shii-take).
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