Mushrooms are a well known part of many cuisines. From mushroom risotto, portobello burgers and Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Soup), mushrooms can be found across the globe. In Japanese cuisine, mushrooms - known as kinoko (キノコ) - play an essential role, adding umami and texture to many dishes. Many varieties of mushrooms can be found growing throughout Japan’s mountainous landscape. Here's a quick overview of some popular Japanese mushrooms:
Shiitake (椎茸) mushrooms are likely the most well known Japanese mushroom outside of Japan and are known for their distinct meaty and smoky flavor. Shiitake are extremely versatile and can be found both fresh and dry. Shiitake are often found in Japanese stews and hot pots, as a broth (dashi), in asian stir fry or in mushroom risotto. When cooking, use them whole or in slices, making use of the stems when they are soft. Try our using them in our Takikomi Gohan (Seasoned Rice) recipe or in our Yellowtail and Yuzu Soba recipe.
Often known as “hen-of-the-wood” or “sheep’s head”, maitake (舞茸) mushrooms are soft and lack the squeaky texture of many mushrooms. The white base leads to numerous mushrooms that can simply be pulled apart without a knife, making for easy cooking. Maitake have a rich earthy flavor and are a great addition to any hot pot. Try them in our Hoto Udon Hot Potrecipe.
Though shimeji (しめじ) mushrooms have a slightly bitter taste and strong aroma when raw, when cooked they transform into a slightly crunchy mushroom with a mild nutty flavor. Shimeji are used in many dishes in Japan including stir fries, soups and even pasta dishes.Try adding them to our Mabo Eggplant recipe for added texture.
This highly sought-after Japanese delicacy is well known for its spicy deep flavor. Matsutake (松茸) mushrooms can be found under Japanese Pine, one of the three famous plants or sho chiku bai (松竹梅) thought to bring happiness in Japanese culture: pine, bamboo and Japanese plum. Due to its scarcity, the first matsutake harvest of the year can bring in $1000 or more per kilogram. In Japanese cuisine, matsutake are eaten grilled, steamed, and in mixed rice. Though they may be hard to come by (especially outside of Japan), if you are in Japan during the fall season, don’t pass up an opportunity to try this rare delicacy.
Enoki (榎茸) mushrooms are thin Japanese clusters of mushrooms unlike ones you may be familiar with. They are long, thin, and fragile with small caps and are a common ingredient throughout Japanese cuisine. With their mild flavor, enoki are a great addition to our Spicy Pork Enoki Mushrooms Rolls recipe and our Yuzu Foil Fish recipe.
Eringi (エリンギ) mushrooms, also known as “King Oyster,” “King Trumpet,” or “French Horn'' mushrooms, are the largest of all oyster mushrooms. Eringi have a thick meaty white stem and small brown cap, and have very little flavor and aroma when raw. Yet once cooked, develops a deepumami taste. Eringi is prepared sliced long ways and can be served grilled or stir-fried, and can also be used as a meat substitute in vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Nameko (なめこ) mushrooms are a unique small Japanese mushroom with a gelatinous coating which creates a slimy texture. It is a staple of Japanese cuisine and has a mild nutty flavor which you will often find in soups and noodles. The gelatinous caps have no flavor when cooked and act as a thickener for liquids. Though nameko have a flavor and texture you may not have encountered, when you have an opportunity make sure you give them a try!