Back in my youth, black mushrooms on a Chinese menu inevitably meant reconstituted dried mushrooms. I still remember the first fresh shiitakes I ever ate – in 1983 or 84, at a Japanese Oriental restaurant whose Korean owner/chef grew them himself.
Now fresh shiitakes are common in all sorts of Asian restaurants. Recently, however, I ordered a black mushroom and baby bok choy dish at a local Chinese restaurant and the baby veggies were partly covered with a mound of old-school dried black mushrooms. It was a lovely dish, full of umami.
A few weeks later, at the same restaurant with friends, I ordered the same dish. Only this time, the mushrooms were fresh shiitakes. It was still good, but I found myself missing the intensity of the dried ‘shrooms.
So what do you think? Is one better than the other? Do you prefer one? Should restaurants distinguish between the two?