Nameko are small fungi with a shiny gelatinous covering. The Japanese eat the slippery slimy mushroom in miso soup, soba noodles, with grated daikon, and more.
These strikingly orange Nameko mushrooms (滑子、なめこ) are native to Japan and are a popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine. They are covered in a layer of natural gelatin called mucin, which helps absorb proteins and protects the stomach wall. They are also known as Butterscotch Mushroom, Forest Nameko, and Forest Mushroom.
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What Are Nameko Mushrooms
Nameko (Pholiota nameko) are small mushrooms with slender straight stems and smooth round caps. It has an glossy shiny appearance due to the natural layer of gelatin coating. This sliminess acts as a natural thickener for miso soup, nabemono, and aemono (和物, vegetable based side dishes).
Wild nameko grows in clusters on oak and beech trees and are available between September to November. They’re also available year-round due to sawdust cultivation.
What Do They Taste
They are firm, silky, with toothsome bite with a cashew-butterscotch aroma and a mildly fruity, nutty, and earthy flavor.
How To Use
You can find nameko fresh or dried. If using fresh, give them a quick rinse under running water to remove some of the sliminess, drain well, discard the ends, then add them to your cooking. You must be cooked before eating as they can cause food poisoning.
Just like any variety of mushrooms, nameko mushrooms are highly versatile and pair well with a lot of ingredients.
- Add to stir fries or sautees
- Grill or roast
- Toss in pasta, noodle dishes or over tofu
- As toppings for pizza or crostini
When you need to add body to soups, stews, and sauces, add nameko mushrooms as the gelatinous compound of the mushrooms acts as a natural thickener and helps to improve the texture.
You can also use nameko mushrooms in Japanese-style egg drop soup, as topping over Hiyayakko, in ankake doufu (餡かけ豆腐, tofu covered in sauce), or as an addition in warm mushroom salad.
Recipes Using Nameko
Where To Buy
In North America, you may be able to find nameko sold at large supermarkets like Whole Foods or specialty local markets. If not, check the Asian or Japanese grocery store. If you’re into growing food, you can buy a nameko mushroom kit online.
How To Choose The Best
Choose those with thick and closed caps. If packed in water, check if the water is not cloudy.
How To Store
For fresh mushrooms, keep them in an open paper bag in the fridge. As they are highly perishable, consume within a few days of purchase. They also freeze well, and you can either blanch the mushrooms before putting them in a freezer bag or freeze the entire package. Make sure to flatten the bag and remove excess air.
The gelatin goop known as polysaccharide in nameko is highly prized. They are loaded with essential nutrients such as vitamins C and D, minerals, proteins, amino acids, fiber, and antioxidants. Some of the health benefits include weight loss, lower high cholesterol levels, and prevent diabetes. Like other mushrooms, they can strengthen your immune system and protect you from free radicals.
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