Let’s ponder on something other than politics and international affairs. With Thanksgiving here, food is at the top of everyone’s mind. In recent years, food has become a star in the media with the rise of networks such as Food Network. There has also been many documentaries on food and the food industry in the last decade, most notably The Great Food Revolution, and Food Inc.
With rising interest in food, there has been a growing trend in the willingness to try new foods and use foreign ingredients. While there has been a large success in producing high-quality products normally found in other parts of the world, some of the same products of lower grade have been accepted into the mainstream North American culinary world. Shiitake mushrooms are one of these products.
Shiitake Mushrooms are one of the popular and most used mushroom in East Asia and good quality shiitakes have a beautiful perfume-like smell. One of the problems today in the North American culinary world is that hardly anyone, including many top and master chefs, truly knows what a good quality shiitake mushrooms look, smell, and taste like. In many non-asian supermarkets in North America today, poor quality shiitake mushrooms pass off as good quality. Pictured in the left above are what can been considered as poor quality shiitake mushrooms. In many Canadian supermarkets, these poor quality shiitakes could be priced at about $14.99/lb. For the same price or less, many Asian supermarkets and herbal shops sell high quality shiitakes (which are pictured on the right).
If one compares the two samples above, the difference in quality can been seen immediately. The ones on the left are thin and seem to have no character. It would safe to assume that it does not have that perfume-like smell. On the other hand, the ones of the right are quite meaty, have that starburst pattern, and would most likely have that perfume-like smell and flavour.
In a way, the North American idea of what is a good quality shiitake mushroom is speaks of the state-of-mind of the average North American, in terms of the world of international issues, politics, culture, and even food. There needs to be a change in the North American way of thinking and to end the ignorance that so defines the North American mind. Until then, we’ll be stuck with overpriced, poor quality shiitake mushrooms.