Black Mushroom - Glossary of Chinese Ingredients and Cooking Terms

What You Need to Know to Use These Delicious Fungi.

Garlic, Mushrooms and Bok Choy close-up
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Black mushrooms are also called shiitake mushrooms. The name "black mushrooms" is a bit of a misnomer, since dried mushrooms can be light or dark brown, and even grey. They are frequently speckled. They are also known as chinese mushrooms, dried black mushrooms, flower mushrooms, and Chinese dried mushrooms.

They have been utilized for their health benefits in traditional Asian healing systems for centuries.

You can find black mushrooms sold under other names including forest mushroom, oak mushroom and pasania fungus. 

A 3.5 ounce serving of raw black mushrooms provides you with 3 grams of fiber, 7 grams of carbohydrates, 35 calories and 2.2 grams of complete protein. Black mushrooms contain 18 amino acids, iron, niacin and B vitamins. Niacin helps break down food for digestion, and is also critical for nervous system function. Iron helps the body form red blood cells. B vitamins benefit the immune system’s ability to attack toxins, viruses and harmful bacteria, and they also assist the body in metabolizing food.

The 5,000-year-old traditional Chinese medicinal system uses black mushrooms for high cholesterol, atherosclerosis and as a tonic to benefit your overall health. Traditional Japanese medicine employs black mushrooms to treat parasites, circulatory disorders, heart conditions and exhaustion.

About Fresh Black Mushrooms

In Chinese, the generic term for this type of fungus is xiāng gū, which translates as ‘fragrant mushroom’. This broad group, however, is subdivided further according to quality and you will also find them sold as either dōng gū, or ‘winter mushroom’, and huā gū, meaning ‘flower mushroom’.

Very generally speaking, any Chinese Black Mushroom can qualify as a ‘fragrant mushroom’, while winter mushrooms (supposedly better in the colder months) are regarded as higher quality, and the ‘flower mushrooms’ held to be the best of the lot.

  • Fragrant mushrooms are exceptionally thin, with little curl at the edges and, while cheap, are definitely not the best quality.
  • Winter mushrooms are thicker and meatier.
  • Flower mushrooms have a thick cap and a nice curl with acharacteristic ‘cracked’ surface patter.

About Dried Black Mushrooms

While fresh black mushrooms may be available, dried mushrooms are preferred for use in Asian recipes, as the drying process gives them a stronger flavor. At home, store the dried mushrooms in a container at room temperature. They will last indefinitely.  

The dried mushrooms need to be reconstituted before use and many cooks find that simply soaking them for an hour or so in very hot water is sufficient. A few cooks, however, insist that the only proper way to soak them is in cold water overnight to produce the best results.

Consider using a weight of some sort, perhaps a small plate, to keep the mushrooms submerged or they will stubbornly remain afloat. As they soak, the aroma will become noticeably stronger. Remove the stems. You should then strain the mushrooms through a sieve to remove any sand or dirt. 

Recipes Using Dried Black Mushrooms