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Sep 21, 2007 03:36 PM

Matsutake Tokusen - best way to prepare?

Cruising thru a local Japanese market this afternoon I noticed a large display of matsutake tokusen mushrooms. As a Fall special at $19.99/lb I decided that I needed to buy some and taste what they are all about. The caps are still closed on these, while on the regular matsutake, the caps were open and they were $12.99/lb. Not knowing about them specifically, but about mushrooms in general, I decided that the tightly closed caps were more desirable...

So now I have $10.00 worth of these beauties... Dear Chowhound community, please share techniques or recipes for them. I know I can use Google to find a gazillion recipes but I'd love to have something that is tried and true or a family favorite. Or, are they simply best grilled or sauteed? The store had rice with matsutake in their prepared food case.

Thanks for any ideas...

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  1. From what I understand, the thing that makes matsutake mushrooms special is their intense spicy/cinnamony aroma. The Japanese prefer the younger mushrooms with the closed caps but I think the flavor of the more mature mushrooms is more intense. (I've personally never found them and only have tasted them prepared by others.)

    I usually hear that the mushrooms are preferred grilled over sauteed (David Aurora's book says that the aroma is lost when sauteed). He says to slice up the caps and stalks, grill or roast them on both sides until toasted slightly brown. I would think you could toss them with a little oil and salt or serve them with a sauce.

    1. You can also place them in your rice cooker to steam with your rice. Usually it's put in the rice cooker with some soy sauce, sake, and either a small amount of diced sauteed onions or diced age (deep-fried tofu skin). This is a really simple dish that totally exploits the piney musky aroma of the matsutake.

      It's also used in simple soups. A basic dashi with dried anchovies and konbu are steeped and the result is a consume'-like stock. The sliced matsutake is added with some simple veggies like sliced daikon, mizuno leaves, maybe some carrots that have been sliced and cut to look like small flowers.

      Like alot of truffle dishes, you want to keep it simple. The point is to highlight the flavor and aroma of the mushroom while the dish that carries it is more of a foil.

      1. It's unbelievable they're sold at such low prices. Even just 3 years ago they are around $99 /lb.

        You're right in that the tightly closed caps are more desirable, at least, by the Japanese. They believe that this way all the essence of the pine forest is still locked inside. I'm not sure how big your batch of Matsutakes are. If they are small enough to fit inside a chawanmushi cup with a lid, you could just put it whole inside, without nothing else, and steam it for 5 minutes. When you open it you can drink the small amount of honey colored nector from the mushroom (and feel like you're drinking from the fountain of youth) and then slice the mushroom and eat as is, or with small amounts of ginger soysauce, or little bit of wasabi...etc. This is actually a good freshness test. If the "nector" tastes fishy or less than inspiring, you know that this is not the best Matsutake you'll ever taste. So don't write it off if this particular one didn't pass the test.

        I'm wondering if the reason for the low price is due to these mushrooms being cultivated (which is supposed to be impossible, but anything is possible these days) instead of hand picked in the wild. I have seen the drastic difference in the quality of the mushroom though. Some of the ones that are not just opened, but looking a bit dry and brown will not have the same kind of scent and quality as the freshly dug, still unopened ones. In the years I've gone Matsutake hunting I've come to appreciate the unique and freshness of the wild grown ones, which are subject to good years and bad years as far as quantity goes, but always have that much more live and character than the store bought ones these days.

        I agree that grilled with yield more original flavor than sautee. If the mushroom is fresh, but slightly opened, it can be sliced or hand-shreaded (which i perfer as if gives a different texture) and grilled, then lightly ornamented with wasabi, drop of soy sauce, and eaten like a beautiful piece of sashimi, (yes they can be good cold, too) or drizzled with good olive oil and sprinkled with coarse salt. If it's a great year, and we just can't eat them fast enough to stay ahead, some of the less fresh ones would be used in sautees. In general garlic is too strong for Matsutake, while light ginger or shallot might be more suitable.

        As the others have suggested, Mastutake Gohan (rice) or soup are good ways to enjoy this mushroom. Instead of steaming it alone, you can also put slices of it in a chawanmushi. the delicate steamed egg custard dish, along with bits of small dried scallops or dried shrimp.

        5 Replies
        1. re: HLing

          I seem to remember reading an article (about 2 yrs. ago) in a grocery trade mag about a Japanese company getting ready to start cultivating mushrooms on the east coast US. Think it was a little north of NYC. If things went as planned they would be in full production by now - perhaps that explains the price decrease? I will ask around & try to get more info.

          1. re: meatn3

            That would be interesting to know. In fact though I haven't checked lately, i I remember being surprised when the Garden of Eden's in the city was carrying matsutake when it wasn't supposed to be in season. The mushrooms were pretty sad looking, and were totally flat out opened and dried up, but stll, their existence was most unusual. This was at least 4, 5 years ago though, so it's probably not what you were talking about. I'm not sure if Garden of Eden still carry that many variety of mushroom as they were back then.

            I have had pickers from the Northwest tell me to look north of NYC for Matsutake. They are speculating only because the terrain and vegetation seem to suggest good grounds for Matsutake. I wonder if indeed there are semi-wild cultivation going on over here on the East Coast...

            1. re: HLing

              My memory was a little off, they were to focus on maitake mushrooms, 30 tons a day! Quick search seems like it has not opened due to zoning & environmental concerns. Here is some info:


          2. re: HLing

            Eating matsutakes will also help keep you regular.

            1. re: F Schubert

              Without warning, F Schubert graces the Chowhound board witha shocking statement. A practical point that happens to be true, but only if substaintial amount is opposed to a slice here and there for fragrance only.

          3. The August 20 issue of the New Yorker magazine had a fascinating in-depth investigation of matsutake picking in Oregon, by Burkhardt Bilger. I recall some discussion of cooking techniques among the pickers, but the abstract doesn't seem to mention that detail:

            3 Replies
            1. re: Amanita

              Thanks for that link. I'll try to find a hard copy of it.

              1. re: HLing

                Thanks everyone for the input: Chowhound continues to be a wonderful resource!
                Amanita: Love the screen name: You must be a mushroom hunter... Wish the boletus edulis that grow in the US were as tasty as what we enjoyed in Italia. Enjoyed the New Yorker abstract: I'll see if the library has the magazine.

                HLing: Great information - now I feel as though I really know something about matsutake. The Gohan sounds so good. I have about half a pound so I can try several different preps. The chawanmushi just sounds so comforting...

                1. re: RWCFoodie

                  Hi RWCFoodie,

                  My mom cooked matsutake quite often when in season when we lived in Japan. If they were big ones, she usually slice them across (so each slice still looked like it had a cap and body). Then she put them on a grilling pan, continue to baste them with a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, and very little sugar while grilling them. Then she turned over the slices and repeated. It was always so comforting when we had this dish.

                  Another way to prepare it was tempura! While it might sound like frying the matsutake would destroy the natural flavor, it is actually not true. If you do the tempura correctly, the matsutake will have a nice crunch outside, and super juicy and flavorful inside. It is ethereal!

            2. I love the matsutake mushroom. I look forward to it every year and ultimately, I believe it is the reason I chose to live in the Northwest where they thrive in our dense pine forests. I bought some at the local farmers markets (an amazing $14.99/lb!!) and made a simple soup with japanese stock (dashi) thin slices of the mushroom and around 3 lbs of fresh manila clams. It was simple, delicious and really brought out the incredible aroma of these marvelous mushrooms! I have also heard that they''re wonderful when lightly grilled. If they're at the market again this weekend, I might try that method instead. Good luck and enjoy!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Hanads

                When one of my dad's friend lived near Coos Bay in Oregon until the early 90s, he'd walk the mountains around his home and just pull them up from under the pine needles. Not many knew about these gems back then. He'd drive down in his motorhome and give ice chests full of matsutake to my parents, who would then redistribute the sudden windfall to their friends. The way you described the simple soup of dashi, matsutake and clams was one of the ways we had it and it brought back alot of great memories... thanks!

                1. re: Hanads

                  Having found delicious and fresh clams at the farmer's market (my new weekly treat) I will definitely try this combination! Thanks Hanads!