Showcase Condiment

About once a month, I visit one of my local Asian markets. My list includes things like fried garlic, rice noodles, and miso. And, if I happen to be out or close to running out, dried shiitake mushrooms. I adore them and use them in all kinds of dishes. If you've never used them before, get your paws on some and toss them in nearly any Asian-inspired pressure cooker dish or rehydrate them and use them in place of meat in all number of recipes and discover how amazing they are. But if you really want to fall in love, pickle them.

Pickled shiitakes are my favorite condiment. Full stop. I've never had anything so flavorful, versatile, or simple to toss together and have on hand in the refrigerator. If I have a steak, I have a few of these along with it. If I make a noodle bowl, they are there alongside the soft-boiled eggs. Heck, if I'm not sure what to have for lunch, I toss some of these beauties over rice and sprinkle it all with some chopped chives. They are simply amazing and make me deeply happy. Also, don't ignore the liquid these mushrooms are stored in, you can use it in place of soy sauce in just about anything and I particularly love peeling hard-boiled eggs and giving them a soak in the jar after I've enjoyed my mushrooms. Waste not, want not. You can thank me after you stop drooling.

This recipe was inspired by Momofuku's original Soy Pickled Shiitakes recipe. However, instead of leaving the mushrooms whole, I prefer to slice them after they've been rehydrated. First, it gives more surface area to soak up the amazing pickling liquid. Second, it saves me time when it comes to eating them and that's generally when I'm at my least patient! I also use rice vinegar instead of the sherry vinegar that the Momofuku recipe calls for. I just like it a lot more, so that's why I use it. And, while the mushroom soy sauce I use in my version isn't strictly required, it is a particularly thick, rich soy sauce that helps the final result pack an even more flavorful punch, which really does bring joy to my heart. Enjoy!

Pickled Shiitakes

  • 2 cups dried shiitake mushrooms
  • ½ cup soy sauce - I used a particularly thick mushroom soy sauce I picked up from the Asian grocery store, but any variety will work; use tamari for a gluten free version
  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 piece (3 inch) fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into coins

Put the mushrooms in a bowl or a pot, and cover with boiling water. Let stand 20 minutes.. Reserving one cup of the soaking liquid, drain the mushrooms and slice them into pieces about ¼ inch thick.

Combine the mushrooms, soaking liquid, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and ginger in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil; reduce it to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the contents cool down to room temperature.

Place the contents of the pan into a jar and store sealed in the refrigerator. Serve with any Asian dish, rice or noodle bowl, or even just over rice.

  • Yields: 1 quart
  • Preparation Time: About an hour, plus chilling