Grilled Matsutake

Matsutake, which means “pine mushroom” in Japanese, isn’t among my favorite of the wild edible mushrooms, but it’s fun to forage and I enjoy preparing it in traditional Japanese recipes.

Look for matsutake under conifers in well-drained, even sandy soils. Like porcini, it can be found near the ocean beaches of the Northwest and also in the mountains, especially in areas where volcanic soils are present. Matsutake fruits in other regions of North America including the woods of Maine and Ontario.

Though the Japanese prefer the mushroom in its button stage with gills entirely covered by the veil, I find that it becomes even more aromatic as the cap begins to open.

It has a singular aroma. David Arora of Mushrooms Demystified fame refers to it as “a provocative compromise between ‘red hots’ and dirty socks.” In my opinion this spicy cinnamon-like flavor marries with Eastern culinary ingredients such as soy, rice vinegar, shaoxing wine, and so on, better than Western dairy ingredients such butter, cream, and cheese.

Probably my favorite preparation is Matsutake Sukiyaki. Gohan is another way to showcase this unique tasting mushroom. But if you want to experience the flavor in the most dressed down way, try grilling it. Slice the mushroom and grill over low to medium heat until light golden. It should be slightly crispy on the outside with a moist, meaty inside. A dipping sauce of equal portions soy sauce and rice vinegar completes this simple and flavorful dish.

10 thoughts on “Grilled Matsutake

  1. Mary

    Lang, I’ve tried and tried to like matsutake and I just can’t seem to get my taste buds wrapped around them. It’s one of those things you either love or hate or love to hate lol. I do love to find them though…but I give them all away.

  2. Perry

    I find them under tan oak in northern CA around new years. Not really one of my favorites either but I like them in miso soup; sliced very thin and added a minute or two before serving. A friend of mine likes to put them in tea (though I’ve forgetten what kind which is probably really important), definitely a unique flavor.

  3. Anonymous

    I recently did some tempura matsi buttons cut into quarters (or eighths if they were large). They got a little szechuan pepper salt in the batter and a sprinkle after frying, and I ate them with a soy sauce/chili oil/rice vinegar sauce. They were much to my liking but a little strong for the girlfriend.

  4. LC

    Mary/Ladyflyfish – Maybe I was a little hard on matsi in the first graph of this post. I should admit that they’re growing on me and each year I think I like them a bit more. The preparation is key. They have great texture, hold up well in prolonged cooking, and if you choose your ingredients well, that spicy cinnamon-like flavor is like no other mushroom. Will try Sichuan prep next.

    Perry – I’ve found them under tan oak in SW Oregon but there was always Doug fir nearby. Thin-sliced is good way to go because they’re still really meaty. Tea would be interesting.

    Anonymous – Love that recipe and will be trying it!

  5. MPB

    LC nice article!

    Do you know anything about Matsi being a folk remedy for cancer? I have read several articles concerning their anti-tumor properties and have heard the same thing from some Japanese and Laosians.

    Will you be going back to the Peninsula this fall?

  6. Anonymous

    Great! Try some potato or corn starch and maybe cake flour in the batter. I’ve also done a pretty rich dish with lotus leaf wrapped dim sum style sticky rice that has a chunk of braised pork belly and a slice of matsutake in the center of each-give that one a try too.

  7. Jeffery

    Right on! I grew up picking mat’s but never ate them as a kid. Never even crossed my mind. Just looked at them as money in the ground! lol
    Know im lucky to sell any I pick at all because of my love affair with them. I enjoy them a variety of ways, but yes, grilled is very nice, especially over open red hot coals! Yum, i like to use equal parts sherry vin, soy sauce and just a splash of Yukon birch syrup. I want some mat’s now, but will have to settle for my “Mocksutakes” instead! lol thx for the great write up, ive been enjoying your blog. 😉

  8. Anonymous

    We love foraging for them, and we love eating them. Anyone in the Bay Area who wants to get rid of matsutake should get in touch with us.


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