The Shiitake mushroom is an edible mushroom that is native to East Asia and has been cultivated for over 1,000 years.
Shiitake mushrooms consist of about 75% water, which is lower than other mushroom types and results in a chewy texture and more robust, dense flavor. When fresh, one will taste the rich buttery flavor of the mushroom. When dried, the flavor profile is rich and smoky.
Shiitake mushrooms are also known for their health benefits as they are high in protein as well as vitamins and minerals (including calcium, potassium and B vitamins) and are natural immune boosters.
Shiitake mushrooms have been a key ingredient in Asian cooking for centuries and are now popular throughout the West. While originally from East Asia, most shiitake mushrooms are grown locally, which have made them accessible and affordable.
When buying, look for a shiitake with a dark brown cap that curves under and is almost round; this signifies a log grown shiitake vs sawdust grown.
When preparing, clean mushrooms with a damp cloth and remove the stem at the base of the cap.
When cooking, sauté until shiitakes develop a brown, crisp outer-layer - this boosts their flavor.
(Sources: http://www.shiitakemushroomlog.com/facts&nutrition.html; http://www.finecooking.com/item/5739/shiitake-mushrooms)