What’s a Nameko Mushroom?

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Nameko mushrooms, also known as butterscotch mushrooms, are a popular variety in Japan and are exported worldwide. They have a mild flavor and a jelly-like texture when cooked, making them ideal for Japanese stir-fries and soups. They are available fresh from October to February and can be found canned year-round. Shiitakes can be used as a substitute.

A nameko or butterscotch mushroom is a variety of mushroom with a bright orange cap and mild flavor. Nameko mushrooms are grown in Japan where they are very popular and are exported to various regions of the world to meet consumer demand. Some Japanese restaurants have dishes with nameko mushrooms and these mushrooms are also popular in Japanese home cooking. If you have a recipe that calls for nameko mushrooms and you can’t find any in your area, you can try using shiitakes as a substitute.

The nameko mushroom grows in tight clusters of white stems, and the caps tend to be crowded together due to the stems’ crowded growth habit. When fresh, the corks have a glossy appearance and a slightly jelly-like feel. As the mushrooms are cooked, they develop a jelly-like texture that may surprise some consumers; this feature makes them ideal for some traditional Japanese stir-fries and soups.

You may also hear the nameko mushroom called butterscotch mushroom, or Pholiota nameko, from people in a more formal mood. Since most of these mushrooms are farmed, it is sometimes possible to purchase nameko mushroom starter, if you are interested in growing your own mushrooms. These delicate, slimy mushrooms tend to be an acquired taste, but some people find the texture pleasant and suitable with the cuisine of regions outside and within Japan.

Fresh Nameko mushrooms are typically available from October to February. When picking mushrooms in the market, look for shiny caps with a fresh appearance and no severe stains or discolorations. Avoid mushrooms with a pitted or cracked surface appearance. Wrap the mushrooms in paper and store them in the refrigerator; usually last about 3-4 days. It is also possible to find nameko mushrooms in canned form in Asian markets year-round.

A common use of these mushrooms is in miso soup, if you’ve been gifted a nameko mushroom and don’t know what to do with it. You can also try using mushrooms in Japanese stir-fry recipes; be aware that they get slimy and sticky if cooked too long, however. Some Japanese consumers also enjoy mushrooms cooked with rice and a little rice vinegar. If you want to experiment with nameko mushroom in cuisines from other regions, consider the texture before adding it into familiar dishes, as the stickiness doesn’t complement all foods.

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