A Narrogin-based shiitake producer has found a ready market in Perth, as Julie-anne Sprague reports.

A NARROGIN-BASED business has had immediate success with its first foray into Perth’s mushroom market.

Bunker Natural Produce’s first batch of premium quality shiitake mushrooms were produced earlier this year and already have been added to the menu at Hans Lang’s The Gala Restaurant in Ardross and Brett Carboni’s Tsunami Restaurant in Mosman Park.

Shiitake means ‘oak mushroom’ in Japanese. The intensely flavoured, thick mushroom is one of the most cultivated of all exotic mushrooms worldwide.

Brett says the dried shiitake variety has been on the market for some time, but Bunker’s fresh shiitake offer his chef more culinary options.

“The chef, Tetsuya Sakamoto, has created a tempura-style dish. He stuffs the mushroom with a prawn and ‘tempuras’ it,” he says.

“No-one has done the tempura shiitake here because the fresh variety hasn’t been available. The dried mushroom gets too tough, like leather.”

Bunker Natural Produce managing director Albert Chan was an engineer in Singapore for 20 years before moving to Australia and purchasing a semi-rural property, which has become home to his shiitake crop.

Albert says that, because shiitake mushrooms grow on wood, they are much cleaner than the standard button mushroom.

“The button mushroom is grown on a different substrate. It’s grown on compost and manure and, to prevent a lot of contamination, they spray chemicals on them,” he says.

“Shiitake is grown on a very clean substrate. Traditionally it’s grown on oak trees but advances in technology and growing methods have developed artificial substrate of sawdust. Other people realised you could grow them on rubber.

“In WA there are the eucalyptus trees and, by chance, we had them on our doorstep.”

Albert says the eucalyptus trees give the mushrooms a special fragrance.

Beside the obvious taste difference between button and shiitake mushrooms, there is also a big difference in the growth process.

‘It takes four months to grow shiitake and there are more complex steps involved,” Albert says.

“It takes three weeks to grow button mush-rooms.”

Shiitake mushrooms last about three weeks in the fridge, compared with button mushrooms’ three-day shelf life.

Shiitake mushrooms are also used in Chinese medicines and have been documented to help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, prevent heart disease and fight viruses.

Bunker’s mushrooms are available at 11 retail outlets and Albert hopes to gain a good foothold of the local market before taking his shiitake to the export market.

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