Roasted Maitake in Lapsang Souchong Tea Broth

December 20, 2012

— I am a soup girl through and through. Especially when it’s chilly outside! —

I tried unsuccessfully to take Michael Natkin’s book Herbivoracious out from the library, so instead I just bit the bullet and bought it. My daughter is a Mac-n-Cheese-and-sometimes-a-little-bacon vegetarian and I thought I might expand her repertoire.

In the five months I’ve owned the book though, I’ve only turned to one very brilliant page, which is now stained, crinkled and waterlogged (or more accurately, tea-logged). I’m sure I will eventually get to the tons of amazing (and as promised “preachless”) vegetarian recipes, but I can’t seem to move myself away from page 80.

Roasted Maitake Mushrooms in Smoky Tea Broth has become a new comfort staple around The Muddy Kitchen. Maitake mushrooms, when roasted up like this, perfume the kitchen with a scent as penetrating as incense burning in a temple. Even my Mac-n-Cheeser enjoys it. The only challenge is not munching on all the crunchy maitake bits before they make it into the soup. They are as tempting as fresh-made chips.

— The crunchy edges of golden roasted maitake are as tempting as fresh-made chips. —

I’ve never found Maitake, aka “Hen of the Woods,” in my own backyard but it’s not for lack of trying. They apparently like to grow in the same ‘hood as their shroom-cousin, “Chicken of the Woods“, which would lead you to believe they’re out there in droves. But despite heavy-duty searching with my stepson “The Chanterelle Whisperer,” I’ve never seen any maitake in situ; I’ve only seen them in Whole Foods.

— Stepson, Damon finds a plump Chicken of the Woods at the bottom of the driveway. —

— Okay – that’s gorgeous, but where’s my Hen of the Woods?! —

— Here, Henny hen! —

— Instead of maitake we found this cool tree tunk. —

— And also this pretty bridge. —

— Checking the book. Checking it twice. Trying to find out which ones are naughty and nice. —

Because of its intensely smoky flavor, Lapsang Souchong is a tea that I find too much to drink on its own, but have used it as a cooking ingredient for years. The idea of it as a broth is perfect. It partners up with the earthy maitake exquisitely.

— Please don’t tell Michael Natkin, but I’ve had this enormous tin of tea since 1997. Hey, it still works. —

To me, like the “liquid smoke” my mother added to BBQ sauce when I was a kid or the Smoked Sea Salt I always have somewhere in the cupboard but forget about, Lapsang Souchong is more like a spice. It instantly adds smoke without hauling up the smoker from Keith’s barn. I flavor my gravlax with it as well.

This simple, super-easy soup is an incredible idea and a satisfying combination. You’ll want to find fresh, fragrant, fat ‘heads’ of maitake if possible. I’ve made this with lifeless looking specimens from the grocery store and was sorely disappointed.

I’ve only changed one thing in my approach: 1/2 cup of bok choy stems just don’t do it for me on the ‘green stuff’ front so I sliver and add whatever is sprouting up in the garden, in this case, chard. I sneak in about twice as much as Natkin suggests. I hope Chef won’t mind the switcheroo.


Serves 4

1/2 cup finely diced bok choy stems (Ha! Right!)

1 tbsp water for steaming

1 lb fresh maitake mushrooms

3 tbsp vegetable oil (I prefer peanut oil here)

1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp Lapsang Souchong tea

2 cups of boiling water

1 tbsp tamari

Toasted sesame oil

2 tsp finely sliced scallions

1. Preheat oven to 450 using convection or 475 without.

2. Steam the bok choy (or your slivered veggie of choice) quickly in the tbsp of water, strain and set aside. Find four pretty bowls for you and ichi ni san lucky guests.

3. Divide the mushrooms into 4 portions (leaving the chunks as big as possible) and place on a baking sheet. Toss with vegetable oil (or peanut oil) and sprinkle with salt. Roast until fragrant (the word is totally apt here) and beginning to crisp up along the edges. About 20 mins.

4. Steep the tea in the boiling water for 5 minutes (like you’re making regular tea). Strain and add the tamari.

5. When the mushrooms are ready, place one portion per pretty bowl. Add the bok choy (or veggie o’ choice), scallions and broth. Drizzle with toasted sesame oil. You might also try to change it up – maybe a pumpkin seed or hemp oil could be nice too.

Enjoy while looking out the window, perusing the seed catalogs, and counting the days until spring.

— The mushroom forager is intrepid and undaunted…and wears a jaunty scarf! —

Take your boots off before you come in here!


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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }


I love maitake mushrooms. Growing up my grandmother would boil them and jar them with a vinegarette and we called them sponges. The soups sounds delicious!


Jennifer Solow

How yummy, Gina! Chef Tyler Viggiano brought some over to our house like that too. ‘Viggiano’ ‘Pampena’ – is there a theme here?



Stewart Putney

Great recipe, wouldn’t have thought of tea in a million years..

I like the bridge…is that your stream?


Jennifer Solow

Thanks, Putney!

My husband has a theory about the part of the country where he grew up: That house his mother used to own? His. That forest where he used to walk? His. The house that his ex-wife sold? His. The barn where his mother used to buy her eggs? His.

So, yes. That is our bridge and our stream. Technically speaking though, in the most legally-specific sense, we were trespassing. 🙂



I still think about this soup ever since it crossed my lips while visiting the Mill Valley Muddy Kitchen Annex during this past Autumn Equinox. I am one lucky ducky who dreams of swimming again in the smokey depths of this indescribably delicious soup. As the profound 2012 winter Soltice is now upon us , I bless the hands and heart of the one and only who prepared such divine ambrosia for me…
Cheers !


Jennifer Solow

Thank, June-bug!

Yes – I know you wanted to take that soup home in a giant thermos. Now you can simple whip some up yourself! In your cauldron. xx



Damn, that sounds fine! I am too ‘chicken’ to forage mushrooms, and only rarely come across them in the market, despite Scotland being prime growing territory. But seeing them will be sure to trigger reading this recipe and your praise of it. I must look the book out too. Thanks for sharing this. Have a festive and happy holiday.


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