This dish corresponds to the Water phase of the Five Phases doctrine of Chinese medicine. It highlights salty flavors and is suitable for the winter. The heart of this dish is maitake mushrooms, also known as "hen-in-the-woods". Maitake are a type of polypore mushroom, a diverse group of mushrooms that grow on tree trunks and branches, consuming the wood as they grow. Many polypores are believed to have medicinal properties. Perhaps the most famous medicinal polypore is Ganoderma lucidum, known as reishi mushrooms in Japan.
Maitake is considered “sweet and neutral (neither hot nor cold).” It can supplement deeper deficiencies and tonify the kidneys. It is also a diuretic, reducing swelling as well as relieving hemorrhoids. Like reishi mushrooms, maitake mushrooms are also purported to stimulate the immune system and slow the growth of cancer cells (see the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website for more information). These properties are accented by asparagus, which “clears heat, detoxifies, and promotes urination.” It is also believed to have some anti-cancer properties. Miso, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil give this dish its distinctive Asian flavors. The miso, in particular, helps to promote digestion. The black sesame seeds are more than garnish, however. They are “sweet and neutral” and another potent medicinal for supplementing the kidneys.
Roasted Maitake Mushrooms & Asparagus with a Sesame-Miso Vinaigrette
2-4 depending on size of mushroom and asparagus
Prep Time/Cook Time
15 minutes/40 minutes
3.5 oz. Maitake mushrooms or one package (sub shiitake or oyster if unavailable)
¼ Bunch asparagus
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Most maitake mushrooms in a market are farm raised and are about the size of a softball. Start by brushing off any dirt, and give it a quick rinse as well. Tear or cut into several pieces, but leave them a bit on the larger side. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and then roast at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until desired texture - you want them to be well roasted. If using shiitake and or oyster mushrooms, you may need to use more as these will shrink more during roasting.
Repeat the steps above with the asparagus, but roast for a shorter time, do not overcook (you want to leave them a little crisp).
Ingredients for Vinaigrette
1-2 Tablespoons white or yellow miso paste
2 Tablespoons tamari or soy
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
4 oz. canola oil
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
Black pepper to taste
Directions for Vinaigrette
Start with 1 tablespoon miso. Be careful - it is strong and you can always add more at the end (but you can’t take it out once it’s in). Whisk all ingredients in a bowl and add as much as you like to the roasted mushrooms and asparagus.
The recipes on The Way are intended as an East meets West look at food and its relationship to health and nutrition. Food is powerful, and every bite can either greatly benefit your system or effectively work against it. In Chinese Medicine, each grain, vegetable, meat, fruit, and spice has unique properties that can be harnessed to help us achieve and maintain balance in our bodies. Our recipes seek to incorporate some of the age-old principles of Chinese medicine into the culinary practices more familiar to the West.