They are dark brown on top, and tan or orangey-brown underneath where the gills are.
The more cracking and crazing in the caps, and the thicker the caps, the better the quality of mushrooms that were used for drying. Thick ones with the best crackling are sometimes called “flower mushrooms” (“hana”) because of the patterns. These are the most expensive, costing up to about $50 US / £20 a pound (2005 prices.) Many of these are exported from Japan rather than other parts of Asia.
Thin ones are called “love letters.”
Hoshi Shiitake are sold whole or sliced in plastic bags in Asian stores, where can buy them in larger quantities which reduces the price. Bags of smaller-sized mushrooms will be cheaper than bags of the very large-sized ones, which command a premium price. If you are going to chop or slice them up small, then it doesn’t matter how large they were to start.
They are used by the Chinese as well as the Japanese, and indeed throughout Asia. In fact, the Chinese eat more dried Shiitake than they do fresh ones.
The region of Oita in southern Japan is noted for the Hoshi Shiitake it produces.
Hoshi Shiitake are good in simmered dishes. Some people also like them in stir-fries.
Before using them, you have to rehydrate them. Soak for 1 to 2 hours in lukewarm water, or overnight in cold water, or for a quick soak, soak 10 minutes in water that was brought almost to the boil. Overnight soaking is considered the best. Some Japanese say to add a pinch of sugar to the soaking water.
Put a weight on top of them so that they will stay under the soaking water. If they don’t seem to get very soft, then the mushrooms may not have been of good quality. They may be too old.
Then, drain. If the soaking water isn’t used in your recipe, reserve it for other users.
Discard the stems; they are very tough. The stems can be used in a stock.
Use as directed in your recipe.
1 medium-sized dried shiitake = 4g
Store indefinitely in cool, dark place in a tightly sealed container or jar.