What’s That Mushroom? An Expert Explains the Fungus Among Us

Matt Parker of Shiitake Happens keeps L.A.’s best kitchens stocked with spores
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The next time you find yourself admiring those stunning spores on your pizza, give a thought to Shiitake Happens. That’s the cheeky name of Matt Parker’s Gardena-based operation (one of L.A.’s few urban mushroom farms) that has been supplying some of the city’s best restaurants—Maude, Mozza, Spago, to name just a few—with 50 or so varieties of high-quality fungi since 2008.

Parker, a Hermosa Beach native and former surf photographer, grows his mushrooms inside custom-designed, climate-controlled shipping containers he dubs “mush rooms” while also sourcing rarer mushrooms from sustainable farms and certified foragers north of Santa Barbara. Cultivated varieties like button, cremini, hen of the woods, shiitakes, and oyster mushrooms are available year-round, but Parker says chefs go nuts when the prized seasonal varieties start to appear—morels, chanterelles, porcini, hedgehogs, candy caps, black trumpets, and rust-colored lobster mushrooms. Consider this a quick guide to a few types favored in kitchens around town.


Chanterelle 

This trumpet-shaped wild mushroom, available most of the year, boasts a light honey hue and an elegant flavor that’s nutty and earthy.

Dish: Sweet corn spoon bread with chanterelles and chives at Hatchet Hall


Hen of the Woods 

Also known as maitake, this delicate type consists of ruffed “leaves” that grow in large clumps; when cooked, it develops a meaty texture and roasted chicken flavor.

Dish: Diver scallops with hen of the woods, bacon, and Carolina rice at Manuela


Shitake 

Originally cultivated in east Asia, this rich, smoky mushroom is famous for its versatility: Once the woody stem is removed the cap can be dried, roasted, or pickled.

Dish: Kombu ramen with marinated shiitake, squash, and tofu at MTN


Oyster

This mollusk-shaped variety, one of the most widely consumed mushrooms in the world, is known for its soft, slightly chewy texture and mild, seafood-like flavor.

Dish: The Funghi pizza with oyster mushrooms and scamorza cheese at Sotto


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