Updated: Oct 31, 2018
Japan is like the land that produces premium ingredients for the whole wide world. From Wagyu beef, to the most expensive mushroom called Matsutake. We've talked about Wagyu before so now it's time to learn more about Matsutake, which coincides with the season in Japan right now!
The Tamba region near Kyoto is home to the red pines which the Matsutake grows on the roots of. They also exist outside Japan, but on other kinds of trees. They are harvested when the cap is not yet completely opened since the aroma fades away when it does. They typically measure between 10 to 20 cm in length. This fungi can be distinguished by its dark brown cap and a plump white stem.
Matsutake, sometimes called Mattake, is expensive due to its scarcity. When there are less trees, there are less mushrooms. The red pine mushrooms have a significant decrease since there's a species of insect that kills the trees under which these mushrooms thrive.
Worse still, a farming method for Matsutake has yet to be developed. Therefore, no wonder it is so expensive (roughly in the $1000-$2000 range per pound). Regardless, the Japanese have long enjoyed eating this rare delicacy since the ancient times. This is probably because of its strong smell, which usually stimulates their appetite.
In the recent years, Matsutake has become a traditional food in autumn. Its spicy yet fruity aroma can spur your appetite. Plus, it's only available in the fall season because only then Japan has the optimal amount of rain in September. The combination of a hot and wet September has a huge influence on the matsutake harvest. The Matsutake season starts from September until October.
To enjoy this Japanese delicacy, we can cook it lightly, seasoned, and should be consumed just days after its harvest. If they are not eaten soon after harvest, Matsutake tends to lose their aroma quickly.
We can prepare Matsutake by steaming or grilling it with dashi in order to retain its flavour. Another option, we can steam them with rice to mingle both aroma (the dish is named Matsutake Gohan in Japanese language). There’s also a popular Japanese dish called ‘Dobin Mushi”, which is matsutake steamed in a clay teapot.
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