Japanese Mushrooms

October 19, 2009 | By | Comments (6)

Delicate and beautiful, Japanese mushrooms are a celebrated autumn food. They add distinct earthy flavors, interesting textures, and visual elegance to dishes from soups to stir-fries and rice dishes. While some families still forage for them in the wild, many varieties — shiitake perhaps the most familiar — are cultivated commercially.

Shiitakes are a staple in my kitchen. I add fresh ones to soups and stir-fries and steep dried shiitakes to create a woodsy dashi that's great for braising meats and vegetables. But I've always wanted to experiment with other types of Japanese mushrooms.

The opportunity arose when our Test Kitchens received a sample of maitake, bunashimeji, and eryngi mushrooms from Hokto Kinoko, a subsidiary of Japan's largest mushroom producer. This company began selling mushrooms grown at its California facility fairly recently.

Most of these varieties were new to me, so I did a bit of research and interviewed Yukari Sakamoto, a Japanese chef and blogger who is working on a book called Food Sake Tokyo. Here are a few highlights from what I've learned:

Maitake (my-TOCK-kay, aka "hen of the woods"): This ruffled fungus (shown above) grows in the mountains of northeastern Japan. Maitake means "dancing mushroom," because foragers allegedly did a little jig when they found them. Its distinctly rich and sultry flavor is great in stir-fries but not the best choice for clear soups, because it colors the broth a murky brown. Yukari says maitakes are great fried tempura-style or grilled in oil, salt, and pepper. Health note:.Read this interesting American Cancer Society article for info on maitakes and cancer treatment.


Eryngii (eh-RIN-gee, aka king trumpet, king oyster, or eringi): With a whimsical shape like something out of a Japanese fairy tale, this thick-stemmed mushroom contributes umami — the so-called fifth taste that lends many vegetarian dishes a meat-like savoriness. It can be sliced, sauteed, and served as a side dish, on salads, or in Italian-style pastas. When cooked, its texture is often compared to abalone.


Bunashimeji (BOON-ah shih-MEH-gee, aka brown beech): Sold in clusters that could almost be called cute, this mushroom has a springy-crunchy texture and a mildly nutty flavor that makes it a prime candidate for all sorts of dishes. Individual stems or smaller clusters look dramatically pretty in soups, and their texture stands up well in stir-fried and sauteed dishes. They're wonderful in nabe (cook-at-the-table hot pot meals).

Recipes: Here's a roundup of interesting mushroom recipes. I can't vouch for any of them personally, because I didn't use a recipe when experimenting. But I think if you stick with simple methods (sauteeing, grilling, stir-frying, adding to soups) you can't go wrong. 


  1. yengaku

    Nice photos- they bring about a yearning for kinoko no gohan.
    In future however it might be best to do a little more research on the names and pronunciation of your subject matter. There isn’t a “ryn” sound in Japanese, nor is maitake pronounced anything remotely like “my-TOCK-kay”. If you were to go to a Japanese supermarket and ask for this they would have no idea what you are saying.

    August 17, 2012 at 3:18 am
  2. Steack

    It’s very nice ..Thank you for share ..I like it very much..

    January 16, 2011 at 9:20 pm
  3. kingston commercial real estate

    Bunashimeji hey,now I know what those little cluster mushrooms are called. I love em.

    December 21, 2009 at 10:30 am
  4. harrogate estate agents

    The health benefits of these mushrooms are very good. I have read that Maitake is really helpfulfor ME and other things. Do you know of other web sites that has similar info. Thank you.

    December 11, 2009 at 6:01 am
  5. Judy

    I have recently discovered these myself. I appreciate the convenience, but have found the flavor of the cultivated Maitake to be less tasty than wild. These mushrooms are also delicious when used in Western style dishes instead of more common mushrooms.

    October 21, 2009 at 1:53 pm
  6. Chris

    I miss Japanese mushrooms. So tasty.

    October 19, 2009 at 4:30 pm

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