They are an essential part of every Asian family home and perhaps more critical than the regular baked beans in the pantry.

Dried mushrooms that are packaged in prepackaged form can serve as an incredibly diverse ingredient that can give numerous Asian dishes a distinct flavor and are commonly used in stews, soups, and stir-fries.

If we drop some of them into the hot water bowl to help them rehydrate for cooking, we don’t give them another thought.

There is a risk with eating wild mushrooms that are unsafe, including that of the fatal cap, which is responsible for the majority of lethal poisonings in the world. Some might wonder whether the same dangers come with cooking with dried mushrooms that are prepared commercially.

Most cases of people consuming poisonous mushrooms are when they are foraging on their own or with an inexperienced guide.

Nelson Wong, mushroom importer


“The chances are almost zero,” says Nelson Wong, owner and the founder of J’s Garden, a retailer and importer of mushrooms from China.

Wong was among the first importers who visited Yunnan, located in the southwest of China, and brought a variety of species like matsutake and porcini into Hong Kong. “First, [mushrooms like] shiitake are cultivated in controlled environments with zero chance of other species being mixed in the bag.”

After soaking dried porcini mushrooms for a few hours in Hong Kong, the Centre for Food Safety recommends placing them in the refrigerator. Photo: Shutterstock

He continues: “The prepackaged mushrooms still comprise 6 to 15 percent water. Therefore, based on the humidity and storage conditions, there’s a possibility that mold can develop.

“But the health risks are like [those for] any other ingredient that grows mould and can be less than those for carrots and button mushrooms, because dried shitakes are usually eaten cooked.”

A pamphlet for public service issued by Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety (CFS) entitled “Food Poisoning Related to Mushrooms” offers the same information and explains: “While dried edible mushrooms do not contain toxins, soaking them promotes bacterial growth if not handled properly.”

Why you shouldn’t”yummy” at Hoi An, Vietnam’s food capital

The government agency advises cooks to place mushrooms that have been overnight in the fridge and to stay clear of dried mushrooms with indications of spoilage like discolored spots, a distinct scent, or a slimy texture.

Every Friday, we bring you news and insight on women who are trailblazers, gender issues, and social justice in Asia. By submitting the form, you agree to receive messages from SCMP regarding marketing. SCMP. 

Wong states: “Most cases of people who consume poisonous mushrooms occur when they hunt for them alone or with a guide who is not experienced which can lead to hospitalization. In very few instances is it that consumption of the foraged food items cause death.”

The CFS brochure also recommends against eating foraged mushrooms. It gives the same guidelines as Wong: “Do not pick wild mushrooms for consumption, as distinguishing edible mushrooms and inedible species or their toxic metabolites is difficult.”

Chan Siu-Kei, dubbed for being Hong Kong’s “father of fungi,” was the first chef to use wild mushrooms from China in a banquet-style meal in the Celestial Court Chinese Restaurant, located in the Sheraton Hotel, Tsim Sha Tsui twenty years ago.

Hong Kong chefs Jayson Tang (left) from Man Ho restaurant and “father of fungi” Chan Siu-kei. 

“When I visited Yunnan where I was born, the locals were only eating mushrooms with hotpot. The Hongkongers would only eat dried shiitakes and the Japanese typically grill matsutake.” Chan explains. Chan, who is currently retired.

“There weren’t a lot of people using porcini, matsutake, termite mushrooms in Chinese cuisine or had even heard of Yunnan black truffles at all.”

Chan and his cook, responsible for roast meats, came up with the dish consisting of suckling pig roast packed with glutinous rice and truffles of black. A recipe Chan has developed with Jayson Tan, the chef-in-chief of Man Ho. Chinese chef at Man Ho will be available to order in advance at the restaurant in the JW Marriott hotel in Admiralty until September 30.

Crispy roast suckling pork packed with barley pearls and Yunnan truffles cooked by Chan Siu-kei, a veteran chef, and Jayson Tan from the Man Ho Restaurant. Photo: Man Ho

Lee Man-sing is a fan of Yunnan’s mushrooms, too. Lee Man-sing, the group Chinese executive chef at Mott 32 eatery in Central Hong Kong, declares: “I have spent more than ten years working with wild mushrooms, and I visited Yunnan in person several years ago.

“Not all mushrooms are poisonous; ones like matsutake are safe to eat raw and termite mushrooms are also safe to eat with any cooking method.”

He recommends cooking the porcini mushrooms thoroughly to make them easier to digest.

The recent CNN video interview featuring US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sparked a “magic mushroom” phenomenon in China after she mentioned eating at Yunnan, where she was served a meal containing Jian shou Qing, a hallucinogenic fungus. The mushroom has since been sold all over China.