A native to East Asia, this fungus grows from decaying wood on logs with heavy rain and heat. One of the most popular mushrooms used in Asian cuisines and is considered a medicinal ingredient a lot of times in traditional medicine. Today it is the second most grown mushroom in the world.
The aroma and flavor profile with fresh shiitake vs dried is very different. Of course fresh is great in its own ways but depends what you're making. Dried shiitakes have a much stronger flavor and distinct aroma. Therefore a lot of times the dried shiitakes are preferred in stocks and soups to infuse that flavor.
Shiitakes are known to reduce cholesterol levels with the compound it contains called eritadenine. It is rich in beta-glucans which helps reduce inflammation and support a health immune system.
The best way to prepare it is to soak it in water to rehydrate, then rinse. Soak it for at least 20 minutes and you will see it start to soften up, the pungent aroma arise and it come back to life. Used in many Chinese dishes like stir frys, sticky rice, soups, stock and herbal soups.