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Straw Mushroom

Volvariella volvacea

Open a can of straw mushrooms and out pops Walt Disney's "Danse Chinois" from the movie Fantasia. These are mushrooms with happy faces, brown straw hats, and dancing feet.

Straw Mushroom -- Click for larger image

These jolly mushrooms are called Volvariella volvacea. Their common name comes from the rice straw on which they are grown. The straw mushroom, also called "paddy straw mushroom," is cultivated in the hot, steamy climate of Southeast Asia. Attempts to grow them in the southern United States so far have been unsuccessful. They are not widely eaten in the United States, but worldwide they rank third in consumption, just behind Agaricus bisporus (the common store mushroom) and Lentinus edodes (shiitake). Indeed, straw mushrooms have been used for food in China for two thousand years.

Baskets of fresh straw mushrooms can be found in the exotic marketplaces of southern China and Asia. They look like tan quail eggs. They are harvested in the "egg stage" before the caps have erupted from their confining universal veils. When sold in this condition they are called "unpeeled." Research has shown that these unopened caps contain a more nutritious balance of amino acids than when opened, suggesting that these mushrooms could supplement proteins lacking in the Asian diet. That is why this mushroom is seldom found "peeled," or in its mature state with the cap open.

In the United States, straw mushrooms are available in canned and dried forms. Canned mushrooms can be purchased in Asian markets. The labels of canned straw mushrooms usually state whether the contents are peeled or unpeeled. The unpeeled mushrooms are stronger in taste. Many companies sell the canned product with significant variations in taste and size. Dried mushrooms can be found in Chinese herbal outlets. These have a more intense flavor than those found in cans.


Drain and rinse the canned mushroom thoroughly before using. Discard the fluid.

Dried straw mushrooms require close examination. Make sure there are no insects present. The appearance and taste of the dried mushrooms are quite different from those of the canned varieties. Even after a cool-water rinse, their strong flavor persists.


Experiment using unpeeled straw mushrooms in different dishes. Fluids held within the cocoon are released upon chewing, producing unusual flavors. Do not burn your mouth by eating them too hot, for the liquor inside retains the cooking heat. A slightly metallic "off taste" is found in some brands. Marinating with soy sauce and/or sherry helps to control this.

The peeled variety is mildly tasteful, and it is a delightful surprise to find one hidden under a snow pea in your favorite stir-fry creation. Add canned or dried mushrooms to your dish near the end of the cooking period. They merely need heating for a few minutes before eating.


If you don't use an entire can of mushrooms, store the remaining portion in fresh water; it will keep in the refrigerator for several days.

Fried Bean Curd with Straw Mushrooms and Snow Peas

Serves 4 as a side dish

Fried tofu has a wrinkled look, is golden brown in color, and can be found in most natural food stores and Asian markets.

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch or water chestnut powder
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 packages fried tofu
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced bamboo shoots
  • 4 ounces snow peas, strings removed
  • Dash of salt
  • One 15-ounce can straw mushrooms, drained and rinsed

In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch, soy sauce, and sugar with the water and set aside. Cut each piece of tofu into long slices, then cut each slice into bite-sized triangles.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok. Stir-fry the bamboo shoots with a sprinkle of water. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and stir-fry the peas with a dash of salt until the color changes. Repeat with the mushrooms. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and gently stir-fry the tofu. When the tofu is hot, return all the other ingredients to the wok and stir in the cornstarch mixture. Serve immediately.

--Helen Studebaker

ALTERNATE MUSHROOMS: Oyster Mushroom, Shiitake

Straw Mushrooms in Crab Sauce

Serves 4 as a side dish

Pearl Chen is a member of a mushroom society in Hong Hong. Serve this dish along with a main dish, Western style, or together with several other Asian dishes for guests to share Chinese style.

  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • Dash of white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • One 15-ounce can straw mushrooms, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 pound fresh cooked crab meat, flaked lightly
  • 2 egg whites, mixed with 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon minced cooked ham

Mix the chicken broth, cornstarch, sesame oil, sherry, white pepper, and sugar in a saucepan.

Place a wok or heavy skillet over high heat. When almost smoking, add the oil. Add the garlic and stir-fry until golden. Discard the garlic. Add the straw mushrooms and the crab meat and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove the mixture to a serving dish with a slotted spoon.

Quickly add the chicken broth and cornstarch mixture to the wok. Beat the egg whites until mixed but not foamy and stir them into the chicken broth mixture. Pour the broth over the straw mushrooms and sprinkle with chopped ham.

--Pearl Chen

Straw Mushrooms with Beef

Serves 4 as a main course

The oyster sauce used in this recipe is a thick concentrate made of oysters and soy sauce commonly used in Chinese cuisine and found in Asian markets. A bottle will keep without refrigeration almost forever.

  • 1/2 pound flank steak
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 bunch broccoli, cut diagonally into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1 carrot, cut crosswise into thin slices
  • 1 cup snow peas
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • One 15-ounce can straw mushrooms, drained and rinsed

Cut the flank steak crosswise into very thin strips. In a mixing bowl, combine the sherry, soy sauce, sugar, and garlic. Add the meat and marinate for 20 minutes.

To prepare the sauce, add the cornstarch to the water and mix well. Add the oyster sauce and sugar and blend. Set aside.

To a large wok or skillet over moderate-high heat, add the oil. When very hot, add the meat and marinade. Cook and stir about 2 minutes, or until no longer pink. Do not overcook the meat. Remove the meat from the skillet and leave some of the juices. Add the broccoli, onion, carrot, and peas and stir to coat with oil and juices. Stir in the 2 tablespoons water to create more steam and cover. Cook a few minutes until the vegetables are semi-cooked. Add the mushrooms, stir, and cover. Cook another 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir the sauce and add to the wok, mixing until the liquid thickens. Return the meat to the wok, mixing all together. Serve over white rice.

--Lois Der

ALTERNATE MUSHROOMS: Common Store Mushroom, Shiitake