Mushrooms have a ton of umami, that Japanese word that describes the fifth taste. roughly translated to mean smooth, savory flavor. It is also described as meaty and savory. There are lots of foods that have umami, like meats, mushrooms, tomatoes, certain cheeses, seafood and shellfish. Red wine is rich in umami as is kombu, a type of seaweed. Fermented foods are rich in umami like fish sauce, Worchestershire sauce, soy sauce and anchovies. Parmesan cheese is another food with a rich umami flavor. That is why I always save the Parmesan rinds and use them in soups and stews. Adding a few of these foods to your dishes will easily improve your cooking.
Shiitakes have the highest level of glutimates of all the mushrooms and they are especially concentrated in the dried version. I use shiitake powder on meats before cooking. Sprinkle it on like salt. It makes a beautiful crust when searing a steak. It is also great in all kinds of soups and stews. Here’s how easy it is to add umami and make shiitake mushroom powder.
Use a high quality brand of dried shiitake that you have reconstituted before and found them to be very clean with very little dirt or grit remaining in the water you rehydrated them in.
Since shiitake mushrooms have a very high level of glutimates, a natural chemical compound that makes umami, it is very good to combine it with foods high in the other compound that completes that umami flavor which is inosinate. These are basically meats, poultry and fish. It is also why you see recipes for vegetables that add anchovy. There is not enough so you would taste the anchovy, but just enough to bump up the flavor of the dish. Oh, and speaking of anchovies, they are a condiment, like mustard. Just like
you most people do not eat mustard by itself and use it to make something taste better, so it is with anchovy. A little can go a long way. Enjoy and eat well.