Chewy little mushrooms with a good flavor at a price that can't be beat. Beech mushrooms (Hypsizygus tessulatus, a.k.a. hon-shimeji or buna-shimeji mushrooms or seafood mushrooms) are a good mushroom to know for the off-season. Today I'll share a little background on them, some general cooking tips, and my favorite beech mushroom recipe you have to try.
I relied on these mushrooms when I was buying 80-100 lbs a week to use as a garnish for steaks. Not only are they pretty to look at, they're also a bargain mushroom. Asian grocers often sell them.
They taste better than button mushrooms, but at a price of around 20 cents an ounce they're often cheaper too.
What Are Beech Mushrooms?
A popular cultivated mushroom in the genus Hypsizygus native to East Asia, beech mushrooms are cousin of oyster mushrooms. That means they're saprobic decomposers: a mushroom that grows on trees helping to break them down.
As the name implies, they may grow in clusters on dead or fallen beech trees as well as other hardwoods. In Japan they'll also grow on Jolcham oak and Japanese Red Pine.
They're one of the few mushrooms in the genus, along with their cousins the Elm Oyster mushroom (Hypsizygus ulmarius) which is also edible.
Although they're native to Asia, Michael Kuo says they can be found in the wild in North America (I've never seen anyone pick them). Wild versions look similar to elm oyster mushrooms (pictured above) and appear difficult to separate without looking at spores using a microscope.
Hypsizygus marmoreus and Hypsizygus elongatipes are synonyms, and the spelling tesselatus is apparently a frequently misspelling.
The mushrooms come in two colors:
- Buna-shimeji (ブナシメジ): mushrooms with brown caps which are likely the closest to their wild ancestors.
- Bunapi-shimeji (ブナピー): all-white mushrooms derived from the brown version and grown without sunlight to keep them white. It's also known as the white clamshell mushroom. It was probably first sold by Hokuto: a well known Japanese mushroom manufacturer.
The second part of the Latin epithet (tessulatus) is one of my favorite parts. It refers to the geometric pattern on the caps and can appear on elm oyster caps too.
How to Prepare Beech Mushrooms
Beech mushrooms from a store should need no cleaning. But, make sure to inspect the packages closely as some grocers have lower turnover than others.
As the mushrooms are packaged in plastic they can't breathe: avoid any packages with visible condensation, inflated packages, or those that have a smell of ammonia after opening.
Beech mushrooms can be cooked like any other mushroom but to show them off it's good to cook them whole, and not chop them up. Related to that, whole mushrooms won't fit on a spoon but are easy to grab with chopsticks.
You can trim the base and cook them as individual mushrooms, or pull them apart in small clusters.
How to Cook Brown or White Beech Mushrooms
You can cook beech mushrooms in your favorite mushroom recipes like stir fries, mushroom pastas and soups. Their chewy texture will stand out and the mild, nutty flavor will add to a dish without stealing the show.
- The first thing you should make are my shimeji mushroom rolls.
- All edible Hypsizygus species shouldn't be eaten raw and can cause mild GI issues like gas and stomach cramps uncooked.
- Their shape adds variation to mushroom blends for pickles or marinated mushroom salads.
- They're delicious in brothy soups but should have the stems trimmed so they can fit on a spoon.
Beech Mushroom Rolls
Since they can be cooked in small clusters when fused at the base I cook them like enoki mushrooms. Wrap the mushrooms in thin slices of meat, brown, and simmer in a rich hot and sour sauce with garlic, ginger and hot chili. I used venison eye of round but beef tenderloin or a tender cut from the leg like sirloin will work.
It's my favorite way to prepare them and a creative, easy mushroom appetizer or main course you can make with kids, for date night or with a group of friends. The images below (and the video) illustrate the process.
A Few Simple Beech Mushroom Recipes
Like most mushrooms they can be added to things like soup and stir fry or simply sauteed. Here's a few more examples to give you ideas.
They have a mild flavor, and the white bunapi-shimeji mushrooms especially are perfect for steaming and marinating to make kimchi. It's a quick ferment and only takes a few days as they don't need to be sour.
The mushrooms are perfect for adding to brothy noodle soups as a spicy condiment. To make it, follow my Mushroom Kimchi recipe.
Sauteed or pan-roasted
You can throw them in a hot saute pan and cook quickly like most mushrooms.
Keep in mind the mushrooms are small and too much time in the pan can overcook them making them shrivel. They only need to be cooked until they're hot and wilted.
Pan Roasted Mushroom Salad
These have a similar texture and long stem comparable to chestnut mushrooms, so they make a great mushroom salad you can serve warm or cold.
Cook them in a hot pan until just wilted, then follow my recipe in my post on Chestnut Mushrooms (Pholiota adiposa).
Hot and Sour Beech Mushroom Rolls
- 1 Slicing knife
- 1 cutting board
- 1 12 inch skillet or frying pan ideally stainless steel but nonstick will work
- 1 5.5 oz package Beech mushrooms
- 6 oz lean beef, venison or pork a tender cut like loin or sirloin
Sauce (Makes enough for a double batch)
- ¼ cup Rice wine vinegar
- ¾ cup chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes hot sauce, or another spicy condiment, to taste
- 1.5 tablespoon cooking oil, separated like light olive oil or grapeseed
- 1 large clove garlic minced
- 2 tsp finely chopped ginger
- 1 tablespoon Hmong cilantro fresh mint, or parsley
- 1 pinch Ground Szechuan peppercorns optional
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil to garnish, optional
Assemble the rolls
- Place the meat in the freezer for 30 minutes to make slicing easier.
- Thinly slice the meat into roughly 6 inch slices.
- Pull the mushrooms apart into clusters of about 3-5 mushrooms, depending on size. Try to keep them small enough that they can be eaten in one large bite.
- Wrap each cluster of mushrooms in a slice of meat. Store them seam-side down until ready to cook.
Brown the rolls
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet. Brown the mushroom rolls over medium high heat, then remove to a baking sheet while you prepare the sauce.
Make the sauce
- Mix the cornstarch, chicken stock, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar in a jar. Put a lid on the jar and shake it to mix, then set aside.
- Heat the remaining oil with the garlic and ginger in the pan the rolls were cooked in for 2 minutes or until aromatic.
- Shake the jar to loosen the cornstarch, then use it to deglaze the pan. Add the mushroom rolls back to the pan and bring to a simmer.
- Cook the mushroom rolls until the sauce is thickened and the mushrooms are cooked through. Spoon the sauce over them occasionally as it cooks.
- Add the cilantro at the end if using and serve with chopsticks as an appetizer, or as a main dish with steamed rice and wilted greens.