Matsutake mushrooms also known as wild pine mushrooms, grow rampant in the wet and damp Pacific Northwest. They are hard to find and only grow in the wild, which is why they can be quite expensive. It's common for many Japanese-Americans to have secret spots to hunt for mushrooms that they pass down from generation to generation.
My family has a spot, but Emi and I are lazy, so we buy our mushrooms instead of foraging in the wild for them. This story is about the great discovery we made in Matsutake Joe.
Matsutake Joe had baskets and baskets of wild mushrooms. The smell was amazing. Matsutake mushrooms have a very distinct, amazing aroma and are a Japanese delicacy. A little bit goes a long way.
Matsutake mushrooms can usually run $40 a pound, but we paid $15 for 2 pounds of the broken ones, plus they threw in a pound of wild chantrelles free!
We bought broken mushrooms, which taste just as great, but were half the price. Japanese and Japanese Americans spend a lot on quality products. Being a gift giving society, it's normal to spend a lot on food and it better look nice too. However since we only care what it tastes like we bought a couple pounds of the broken ones.
We invited Emi's parents and my parents over for dinner to enjoy a matsutake feast. Here's what one looks like sliced up. All you do to prep them is rinse them off in salt water or brush off the dirt and then cut off the base.
I made the first course, matsutake soup. I boiled a pot of water and added in chicken pieces, napa (cabbage), and sliced matsutake. I also added in some ajinomoto (MSG), salt, and pepper. A very simple, yet delicious soup.
Emi made matsutake gohan (rice). She made rice the way she normally would (washed it and added water to it), but also added in sliced raw chicken, sliced matsutake, shoyu (soy sauce), and hon dashi (fish soup flavoring). Everything cooked in the rice cooker together and came out steaming and delicious. The matsutake gohan went perfectly with the main course.
For the main course Emi made sukiyaki, but instead of normal mushrooms she showcased matsutake mushrooms, which was a great treat. The matsutake mushrooms added a great flavor to the rest of the dish when it all cooked together.
Matsutake mushrooms are another indicator that Fall along with its grey skies and rainy days are here to stay. At least while we hide from the cold and rain we can enjoy a delicious meal.