Recently I found a recipe from Gild the (Voodoo)lily that called for lobster mushrooms, and was instantly reminded of a photo I took of this particular species when visiting San Francisco's Fungi Far West. This exotic, mottled reddish-orange mushroom variety was offered at $10/lb, and at the time I deliberated taking some home to satiate my curiosity, but since I was traveling I opted to wait to until I returned to New York. When I finally did track this exotic lobster mushroom in New York, I was disenchanted to find it cost $30/lb. I knew it was going to cost more but not this much more! I grumbled to myself and the mushrooms.
So before committing a few bucks to this cause - curiosity is a very good cause - I wrote to Heather of Gild the (Voodoo)lily to ask what they tasted like. I thought her description was quite insightful so I'm going to share with you what she wrote:
"Lobster mushrooms are really wonderful. I think they get their name from their color, though, and not their flavor! They taste sort of like king trumpet (xìng bào gū) - very savory with a meaty texture. The red coating on the exterior is actually a separate fungus that parasitizes a different mushroom and physically changes it into the "lobster" - type mushroom - so when you eat one, you could just be eating an oyster mushroom or some other species that has been parasitized by the lobster mushroom fungus. When you slice through it, the knife sort of crunches through the thin, red shell. I love them.
Hope that answers your question! At $30/lb., it'd probably be cheaper for you to join your local mycological society and just go pick them yourself. :)"
Thanks Heather for your insight on this stunning mushroom!
If you haven't gotten enough of this mysterious lobster mushroom please see this video on the lobster mushroom by Ian Garrone of Far West Fungi.