WHAT IS IT? – The edible above-ground portion of the beech mushroom
SEASONALITY – Year round
USE – Shimeji mushrooms must be cooked. They cook fairly quickly and can be prepared in a number of ways (e.g. stir-frying, in soups, baked, etc.). They don’t overcook too easily, but they’re best when still firm.
STORE – Short Term- Shimeji mushrooms are often sold in a breathable plastic wrap. This is an ideal storage system. If they’ve been opened or they’re in non-breathable plastic, wrap uncut and unwashed mushrooms in a paper towel and refrigerate in an unsealed bag. Fresh mushrooms will keep for up to several weeks when stored properly. Raw shimeji mushrooms do not freeze well.
Savoury/Nutty – Shimeji mushrooms have a pleasant and fairly unobtrusive nutty flavour. They retain a firm, somewhat crunchy texture when cooked. Brown and white varieties do not differ substantially in flavour, though brown can be slightly more bitter.
Oyster mushrooms and straw mushrooms are reasonably good substitutes, though somewhat less crunchy/snappy in texture. Crimini/button mushrooms differ considerably in flavour and texture, and don’t make great substitutes.
Prominent in Japanese cooking, and well-used in a variety of European cuisines too, these mild mushrooms are popular in soups, pastas, hotpots, stir-fries, and even baked dishes.
Excellent with Japanese staples (soy sauce, miso, dashi, mirin, rice, etc.), and excellent with olive oil, mild herbs, pasta, and other relatively light flavours.
The two most prominent varieties (shown at the top of this page) are the brown shimeji (buna-shimeji) or beech mushroom, and the white shimeji (bunapi-shimeji). These shouldn’t be confused with the hon-shimeji or hatake-shimeji mushrooms, which are uncommon outside of Japan. See ‘Important Varieties’ note below for more detail, and information about related mushrooms.