If you haven’t grown up with Enoki mushrooms, chances are they look pretty alien to you — a cluster of long, thin white stalks topped with little white buttons at the end. They’re a far cry from the White Button and Portobello mushrooms that the Western world is so familiar with. But in East Asian cuisine, they’re one of the most commonly used types. If you’re interested in cooking Japanese, Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese food, you’ve got to get these mushrooms into your life. Let’s learn a little more about what makes them so special.
What Are Enoki Mushrooms?
Enoki mushrooms or Enokitake (literally “Enoki mushroom” in Japanese) is a type of cultivated mushroom consisting of a cluster of long, thin white stalks with white caps. They are also known as jingu (Chinese), paengi beoseot (Korean), and nấm kim châm (Vietnamese). Enoki mushrooms are a cultivar of Flammulina velutipes, better known as wild Enoki mushrooms, which have shorter stems, are peachy-brown in color, and have large caps. Enoki grow naturally from the stumps of the Chinese Hackberry tree, but may also grow on ash, persimmon, or mulberry trees. The main difference between wild and cultivated Enoki is that the cultivated variety is never exposed to light and grown in a carbon dioxide-rich environment to encourage the growth of long stems.
Enoki mushrooms have a firm texture and mild, fruity flavor. When selecting Enoki mushrooms, inspect the cluster thoroughly. You want a cluster of Enoki that is firm and white — avoid anything that appears slimy or discolored. Prior to usage, store them in a paper bag in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Enoki mushrooms are a rich source of several vitamins and minerals. They contain a decent amount of vitamins B3, B5, B1, and B2 as well as phosphorus, iron, and copper. On top of that, amino acids Tryptophan, Threonine, Isoleucine, Leucine, and Lysine are present. They are also a good source of dietary fiber – raw Enoki mushrooms contain more fiber than green cabbage, even — and antioxidants such as selenium.
Enoki mushrooms are known to be a non-meat source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which may help reduce gut fat when combined with their high fiber content. A popular use for them in Japan is to make Enoki ice, pictured above. To make Enoki ice, add 10.5 ounces Enoki (cleaned with the woody stem removed) with just over 1 1/2 cups of water. Then, transfer to a pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Let it cool down, then pour over an ice tray. Enoki is can be used in soups, curries, dressing, and more.
Due to their high vitamin and mineral content, Enoki mushrooms have long been valued in Chinese and Japanese traditional medicine to treat liver disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and stomach ailments.
Enoki mushrooms are at their best when used in East Asian dishes such as soups, noodle dishes, stir-frys, and salads. They can be eaten raw or cooked but should be cleaned prior to usage. To clean your Enoki mushrooms, pick out any stems that are slimy and discolored, then run the cluster under cold water. After that, cut off the woody “stem” at the end.
One of the easiest ways to cook Enoki is by making Nametake, or Enoki that have been simmered in soy sauce and mirin, a sweet rice cooking wine. The flavors are the perfect balance of salty, sweet, and umami, plus it keeps for about two weeks in an airtight jar. Nametake is a very popular side dish in Japan and although you can find it jarred in stores (they’re kind of like pickles), nothing tastes quite as good as homemade. Serve nametake in its own dish as a side or add it to rice, pasta, and soups.
Try using nametake to make a dish called kinoko gohan, or steamed rice with vegetables. Steam the rice like you normally would, but add mirin, sake, soy sauce, and salt. Once the rice is done, top it with green onions and nametake or simply use sautéed Enoki mushrooms — just cook the mushrooms in a little bit of salt and oil (or use water) until tender.
Or, try nametake with this Macrobiotic Brown Rice Arame. You could also make a full meal spread with nametake, Tofu Steak, Vegetable Teppanyaki, and Blistered Shishito Peppers with steamed rice and Miso Soup on the side.
Cooked enoki mushrooms are a wonderful addition to any soup, particularly noodle soups. Try them with this Kitsune Udon, this Miso Ramen Bowl, or this Somen. Or, try it out with this Grilled Asparagus Pho. Out of all the noodles, it is said that the fruity flavor of Enoki pairs best with the slightly nutty flavor of authentic soba (buckwheat noodles), so give it a try with these Green Tea Soba Noodles, these Carrot and Soba Noodles With Sea Vegetables, or this Zaru Soba, which is especially refreshing in summer.
Look for fresh Enoki mushrooms at the nearest Asian grocery store. You might also find them at grocery stores that carry specialty items, such as Whole Foods or even at your local farmer’s market. If you can’t find fresh, look for dried mushrooms, which only need to be rehydrated prior to use. Otherwise, you can buy Enoki mushrooms online, like these Whole Dried Enoki from SpiceJungle. 4 ounces of dried mushrooms costs about $14.
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