King Oyster Mushroom
( king trumpet, trumpet royal, scallop mushroom, gambone, Boletus of the steppes )
Although this mushroom can be found wild in Southern Europe, North Africa, and the southern areas of the old Soviet Union, it is realistically a cultivated mushroom whose popularity is soaring worldwide. Its oldest fans are in China, Japan and Italy where it has been cultivated for quite some time.
King Oysters are part of the same family as the regular oyster mushroom, but here the similarity ends. Both the flavor and texture are superior to its common cousin. The texture is possibly the meatiest in the gourmet mushroom world. There’s fine chewing here.Uniquely in the wild mushroom marketplace, the stems are the most desirable part of the mushroom. In fact, the caps on these stout, column-like stalks are almost an afterthought.
One common name, the scallop mushroom, is backed up by a story more than one chef has told me. Apparently a vegetarian diner or three have sent back entrees stating that they did not eat scallops. Sliced horizontally, they look very much like them.
The stem size and shape can vary depending on the grower’s cultivation practices. I sell three different growers king oysters. One has a bulbous porcini-like stalk. Another has a very thick straight vertical stem. Yet another grower has a thinner stalked mushroom. My chefs have distinct preferences for their use.
This should scarcely be necessary. Increasing numbers of organic growers make this light or no work at all.
WARNING: They do not grow abundantly in the summer. Even in climate-controlled growing rooms, shortages are possible in summer months.
These see the inside of many a wok, and other Asian cooking vessels. American chefs find them a great sautéing mushroom. They brown beautifully, and are not a stranger to the grill. A simple horizontal cut makes a tidy scallop shaped mushroom piece.
King Oysters have been particularly useful for chefs going through porcini withdrawal. As the always too short porcini season peters out, these can easily slip in to take the place of the noble but missing porcini. This can make it possible to retain a popular entrée a bit longer until menu change is possible.
Go domestic! There are increasing numbers of American growers working with this mushroom. These domestic king oysters should be VERY firm, white stalked, and crowned by a small trumpet-shaped white to brown cap. The larger stalked versions usually do not have an in-rolled cap edge.
The marketplace is awash in imported Chinese King Oysters. They can be significantly cheaper, but they are soft, browning, and well-aged from a long refrigerated boat trip from China.
These can easily hold a week if covered with cloth in the coldest part of your cooler.