The gills of shiitake mushrooms

The gills of shiitake mushrooms

Green Pickled Peaches
Chris Chen

The cross-sections of fresh shiitake mushrooms remind me of the gills of fish or the feathers of birds. This recipe is about suspending those cross-sections in a sauce. However, I never intend to compromise taste purely to visualise my imaginings, so the sauce harnesses together many of what I consider to be umami elements.

For the shiitake sauce


Quantity Ingredient
200g shiitake mushrooms, thick caps preferred
1 teaspoon peanut oil
50ml japanese rice wine
1 teaspoon ginger juice, (see glossary)
2 teaspoons spring onion juice, (see glossary)
1 garlic clove, peeled and bruised
400ml brown chicken stock
kuzu starch

For poaching the crayfish

Quantity Ingredient
6 spring onions
3 garlic cloves, peeled and bruised
2.5cm piece of ginger, crushed
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
75ml sake
2 unshelled freshwater crayfish tails, around 170 g each

For making fresh soy milk sheets

Quantity Ingredient
225g dried soy beans, soaked in water 3 times their v olume overnight
850ml purified water


  1. Make the shiitake sauce:
  2. Remove the stalks from the shiitake mushrooms. Finely slice the mushrooms, using a very sharp knife so the cross-section isn’t dragged and distorted. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the mushrooms in batches so that they spread out in the pan in a single layer (the point is to quickly colour and soften them, not steam them). Off the heat add the rice wine, the ginger and spring onion juices, and the garlic. Let the liquid in the pan reduce for 1 minute. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Take off the heat and cool. Measure the amount of liquid in the sauce. For every 300 ml of liquid, use 9 g of kuzu. Dissolve the kuzu in a tablespoon of cold water and then introduce it to the sauce. Simmer for 2–3 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.
  3. Poach the crayfish:
  4. Put all the ingredients except the crayfish in a pot with 750 ml of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes until the broth smells appetising and savoury. Strain it into another pan, as small in diameter as possible so that the volume of liquid will cover the crayfish tails. Skewer the tails straight. When the temperature of the broth cools to 60°C, add the tails. Leave off the heat for 15 minutes, or until the tails are just cooked. Fish out the tails and peel off the shells.
  5. Make the fresh soy milk sheets:
  6. Process the drained soy beans and purified water in a food processor to make a fine sludge-like purée. Pour into a tall pot and cook over slow heat, stirring constantly to prevent the solids sticking. Bring to the boil and then cook for 5 minutes longer for the raw soy mixture to lose its green flavours and acquire a sweet nuttiness. Strain through muslin set over a strainer. Approximately 700 ml of soy milk will be produced.
  7. When ready to make the soy milk sheets, choose a 20 cm non-stick frying pan and pour soy milk into the pan to 1 cm deep. Place over the lowest possible setting on the stove. The soy milk will heat up when left undisturbed and then form a skin after several minutes. Fan the skin and allow it to form visible wrinkles. Lift o# using chopsticks and place on the serving dish. Repeat the process to make 4 sheets.
  8. Assemble the dish:
  9. Cut the crayfish tails lengthways and then cut each half into three pieces. Arrange in a dish in which the wrinkled up soy milk sheets are already sitting. Spoon some of the shiitake sauce around the crayfish and over the pale colour of the soy milk sheets.
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