One cannot complain about living on the gorgeous Monterey Peninsula along the California coast just blocks from the water. Yes, I have a view of the bay from my kitchen’s picture window but please allow me this one gripe — moving from Seattle has deprived me of the plethora of fabulous Asian restaurants and the bounty of Asian produce and products.
So you can’t blame a gal when she gawks openmouthed and almost trips over her own two feet upon stepping into the Mecca of Japanese and miscellaneous Asian food called Mitsuwa Marketplace in San Jose. (The San Jose/Sunnyvale/Silicon Valley area is about an hour 15 minutes north of here). Trust me, I was like a bee buzzing about fastiduously in a wildflower meadow.
After picking up some powdered matcha, kuri dorayaki (chestnut-filled pancakes) and Tamaki haigamai rice, I came across these cute little button-like shimeji in the produce section.
I must admit I was a little wary because the mushrooms were packed in plastic and they were imported from Japan but I just couldn’t resist the mushroom cartoon (see below) beckoning to me, “Buy me, buy me!”
Isn’t it so cuuute?
In the end, I succumbed, burdenened with guilt that I had substantially upped my carbon footprint and food miles, and bought two kinds of mushrooms: buna-shimeji, also known as the brown beech or brown clamshell mushroom, and bunapi-shimeji, white beech or white clamshell.
When I got home, I typed the Web site address http://www.hokto-kinoko.co.jp into my internet browser to find out more about the company that produces and exports the shimeiji. With each sentence I read, I breathed a little easier. They use environment-friendly Polypropylene film for their packaging and 100 percent organic culture media–corncob meal (pulverized cobs of non-genetically-modified corn) and rice bran.
Edible mushrooms native to East Asia, shimeji is rich in umami, i.e. the fifth taste. Buna-shimeji has a somewhat bitter taste which develops into a nutty flavor when cooked. The cooked mushroom has a pleasant, firm, slightly crunchy texture and is excellent in stir-fries, and sauteed with seafood. Or toss it into soups, stews and sauces. On its own, shimeji tastes lovely topped with a dab of butter and slow-roasted in the oven.
As I had a ready supply of pea shoots in my fridge, I made a pea shoot and buna-shimeji stir-fry.
Wok-Fried Mushrooms and Pea Shoots
Pea shoots, sometimes called pea vines are available at farmers markets and Asian markets (under the name dou miao), they should include a top pair of small leaves (the tip), delicate tendrils attached to the young stem, and a few larger leaves or blossoms. Select bright green, undamaged shoots.
Time: 10 minutes
Makes: 4 servings as part of a multicourse family-style meal
1 pound pea shoots, rinsed and drained well
7 ounces buna-shimeji or bunapi-shimeji mushrooms
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)
1/4 cup chicken stock or water
2 teaspoons soy sauce or fish sauce
Sesame oil for drizzling (optional)
Trim the pea shoots and remove any tough stems. Break up the cluster of mushrooms to release the individual mushroomettes.
Preheat a large wok or skillet over medium heat. Swirl in the oil and heat until it becomes runny and starts to shimmer. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds.
Raise the heat to high, throw in the pea shoots and toss to coat evenly with the oil and garlic for until the leaves are just wilted, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, stock and soy sauce and toss until the liquid has reduced to a few tablespoons and the shoots are tender and bright green, another 1 to 2 minutes. Drizzle with sesame oil and serve immediately with freshly steamed rice.
Pat’s Notes: Pea shoots are often confused with pea sprouts, the whole baby pea plant. However, shoots and sprouts can be used interchangeably. Just vary the cooking time.
As grandma always says, please share!