Matsutake Mushroom at Kyoto Specialty Vegetable Store Toriichi Shinise (京特産 とり市老舗 松茸)
Masutake (松茸) in Japanese literally means ‘pine mushroom’. In Japan it grows under red pines.
Matsutake and Sudachi
Walking through the Teramachi Shopping Arcade yesterday, I noticed that Toriichi Shinise was fully stocked with matsutake, both domestic and imported. Autumn is indeed upon us!
The rich, smoky, earthy flavor, and especially the fragrance are much loved by Japanese. The signature fragrance of the matsutake is best extracted and enhanced by steaming or simmering, therefore it is most commonly seen in broths and cooked in rice. Sudachi, one of the three Japanese citrus fruits essential for cooking probably goes best with the unique flavors of matsutake.
Matsutake cannot be cultivated, so all are harvested in the wild. The people who gather matsutake must brave rugged terrain and steep mountain slopes as well as occasional encounters with bears and wild boars, even the odd rattlesnake.
The most favored matsutake in Japan, domestic matsutake fetch up to about $2,000 per kilogram. That is VERY expensive! Therefore, more economically priced imports from China, Korea and now North America and Europe account for the more than 90% of matsutake in Japan.
By law, imported matsutake must be washed and this dilutes and damages the flavor and fragrance. Imported mushrooms simply cannot be as fresh as domestic ones as well.
The best flavor and fragrance is contained in matsutake in which the cap of the mushroom is not fully developed. When I first came to Japan, it was explained to me that the best matsutake look more like a penis than an umbrella.
Cooking and Eating Matsutake
Matsutake gohan (matsutake rice), matsutake tempura and matsutake dobin mushi, or matsutake simmered in broth, are all wonderful autumn foods in Japan.
One of my all-time favorite Japanese dishes is matsutake dobin mushi, which is absolutely wonderful. Dobin is a ‘clay vessel’ and mushi means ‘steamed’. So, matsutake mushroom simmered and steeped inside a ceramic pot.
A small teapot-like vessel is filled with broth, a shrimp, a cube of chicken maybe a ginnan nut and a few pieces of precious matsutake. It is then simmered for some time and served bubbling hot. It is served with a slice of sudachi, which is squeezed into the broth. This is allowed to steep for several minutes at the table, then the broth is then poured into a tiny cup and is sipped, piping hot, just like tea. The fragrance of the matsutake infused into the broth is just exquisite!
After all the ambrosia-like broth in enjoyed, the pieces inside the pot are usually eaten, but their best flavors have been lost to the broth.
Toriichi Shinise sells the finest seasonal vegetables. It is a specialty shop and it basically sells only one item per season.
Spring: Bamboo Shoots (mainly from Kyoto)
Summer: Kamonasu Eggplant (from Kyoto)
Winter: Senmaizuke, thin sliced pickles made from very large turnips. (from Kyoto)
Toriichi Shinise – Storefront and Seasonal Offerings
The woven bamboo basket on the lower left is worn like a backpack by those gathering matsutake.
Prices are about $120 to $150 per basket! These are domestic matsutake.
Matsutake Split in Half
Matsutake and Sudachi
Matsutake and Sudachi – detail
The one at the bottom center is of optimal shape for matsutake, the cap is still not spread out.
Nicely Packaged Imported Matsutake
These are imported from Korea.
Chestnuts are also pricey at Toriichi, these baskets are about $30 to $50 each. These are big, fat chestnuts.
Toriichi Shinise Staff Packaging Matsutake Gift Packages
Toriichi Shinise, while just a small shop in Kyoto is a name known to many throughout Japan and when people want to sent the best seasonal gift possible, seasonal vegetables from one of Kyoto’s finest specialty shops cannot be topped.
English brochure: none
English website: none (Japanese language website)
Service/Staff: not friendly, several of the staff can be quite rude
Hours: 9am-9pm, open everyday
Location and Access: Toriichi Shinise is located in the Teramachi Shopping Arcade, just north or Sanjo Street. Ten minutes on foot from Kawaramachi Station (Hankyu Line), 5 minutes on foot from Sanjo Station (Keihan line), 3 minutes on foot from Shiyakushomae Station (Subway Tozai line).
Kyoto-shi Nakagyo-ku Teramachi-dori Sanjo-agaru Tenshojimae-cho 523 (京都市中京区寺町通三条上ル天性寺前町523)
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