Shimeji, also known as beech mushrooms, are native to East Asia but nowadays cultivated all over the world. They are very versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. This detailed guide will teach you all about what shimeji mushrooms are and how to cook them at home.
If you are familiar with Japanese cuisine, you’ve likely encountered shimeji, also known as beech mushrooms before. They are used in a variety of Japanese dishes: soups, salads, rice bowls, and many more.
If not, there is a big chance that you have never tried them before even though these fungi may be sitting on the shelf of your favorite local grocery store. And let me tell you, you are missing out!
In any case, this guide is here to help you to learn more about shimeji mushrooms and to encourage you to give them a try. You’ll find information on where to buy them, the taste, health benefits, as well as different ways of cooking beech mushrooms.
What are Shimeji Mushrooms?
Shimeji mushrooms are native to East Asia but today they are cultivated all over the world. They have a crunchy texture and a sweet & savory and nutty flavor.
In Western countries, these fungi are also called beech mushrooms because they usually grow on decaying or dead beech trees.
They usually come in two colors: white and brown. White shimeji can also be called white beech, white clamshell or Bunapi-shimeji mushrooms. Brown variety is known as brown shimeji, brown beech, brown clamshell or Buna-shimeji.
Beech mushrooms have small caps and long stems that are connected together at the base (like bouquets or clusters). It’s not advisable to eat them raw because they are too tough and bitter. Cooking softens them but leaves that crunchy texture and brings out all the flavors.
Shimeji mushrooms contain antioxidants protecting your body from free radicals and reducing the risk of various chronic health conditions and cancer. They are also high in dietary fiber, protein, and minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, and copper.
These mushrooms also help to lower cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar.
Where to Buy & Storage
Surprisingly, shimeji mushrooms can be found quite easily at any large supermarkets (check Whole Foods), farmer’s markets, or Asian grocery stores.
Look for firm and fresh-looking clusters. They shouldn’t be moist but also avoid dried-out bouquets. Discolored mushrooms should be avoided too.
After purchasing, store either in the original package (if it’s breathable) or in a paper bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. But it’s better to use them as soon as possible.
Avoid freezing fresh shimeji. You can freeze beech mushrooms when they are cooked, though. They should last for up to one month.
How to Cook Shimeji Mushrooms
Now that you’ve got your hands on beech mushrooms, let’s talk about how to prepare and cook these beauties.
The preparation is actually very simple. Start by cutting off the base of the mushroom cluster. Now separate the stalks. Rinse under running water and brush off any dirt that is left. After that let them dry or pat with paper towels.
Commercially grown shimeji mushrooms are generally clean so they shouldn’t require too much cleaning.
That’s it! Now your shimeji mushrooms are ready for cooking. Below you’ll find my favorite cooking techniques and recipes.
A friendly tip: Make sure not to overcook beech mushrooms because they lose their crunchy texture when cooked for too long.
Not cooking per se, but pickling beech mushrooms is a great way to infuse them with plenty of flavor from the brine. Pickled shimeji make a great snack, side, or addition to any dish.
And they are so easy to make! I usually use this recipe and have my pickled mushrooms ready in half an hour of prep.
Probably the easiest and quickest way to enjoy shimeji mushrooms is to saute them. It literally takes 5 minutes and the result will blow your mind.
I like to toss them in a skillet with soy sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar and ginger to add that extra flavor. In the recipe card below you can find a recipe where sauteed shimeji are used as a topping for the roasted salmon fillet. Perfection.
Stir-frying shimeji mushrooms is another great way to enjoy them. You can either use beech exclusively or combine them with other mushroom varieties.
Stir fry the mushrooms with vegetables such as snow or snap peas, green beans, green onions, bell peppers, or others. A quick and easy dinner option.
Shimeji mushrooms go so well in all kinds of soups and add that beautiful umami flavor and delectable crunchiness. They can act both as the main star of the soup (check out this easy recipe) or as a topping for, let’s say, ramen.
To conclude, cooked shimeji mushrooms make a great addition to a variety of dishes. Use them in rice or noodle bowls, salads, pasta, or even as a pizza topping. They also make a great side for various meats or fish (the salmon recipe below is the perfect example of this). The possibilities are endless.
Roasted Salmon with Asparagus and Shimeji Mushrooms
For the salmon:
- 4 salmon fillets
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
For the asparagus and mushrooms:
- Combine the soy sauce and maple syrup in a sealable bag. Add the salmon fillets inside and coat them evenly. Seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the salmon fillets (discard the marinade) and roast for 9-12 minutes, until caramelized. The exact roasting time depends on the thickness of the fish,.
The asparagus and mushrooms.
- Cut the asparagus into equally sized spears. Slice any leftover bits into small pieces and set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, maple syrup, vinegar, and ginger. Add the melted butter and whisk well until emulsified. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a skillet over high heat and add the asparagus spears. Saute for about 2 minutes until cooked through but still firm. Transfer to the plate.
- Add the mushrooms and reserved asparagus pieces to the same skillet and cook for 1 minute. Add the soy sauce mixture and cook for 1 minute more. Stir to coat the mushrooms and asparagus thoroughly.
- To serve, arrange the bed of asparagus spears on the plate. Place the salmon fillet on asparagus and top with the mushroom mixture. Spoon the sauce over the salmon and sprinkle with chives.