Matsutake gohan (松茸ご飯) or pine mushroom rice is a uniquely fragrant fall delicacy that embodies the essence of Japanese cuisine. It's simplicity belies the depth of complex flavours that come together in this luxurious bowl of rice and it heralds the coming of fall.
In traditional Japanese food, the seasons play a huge part in the choice of ingredients, mix of flavours and presentation of dishes. While modern transportation networks allow "seasonal" produce to be flown in from all over the world, there's something irresistible about the fleeting seasonality of ingredients so there's still a great emphasis placed on the seasons.
Matsutake mushrooms are the embodiment of this fixation on seasonality with a season lasting just a few short weeks during fall. Together with fall leaves, persimmons, and mandarin oranges, matsutake mushrooms are the harbinger of fall for many Japanese.
While they grow in regions around the world, Matsutake mushrooms are extremely particular about their environment and and only grown under certain conditions. Despite a goldmine of opportunity, this has prevented any commercial cultivation of these mushrooms. Unfortunately this makes them extremely pricey, and there's really no substitute for for the intense flavour of matsutake mushroom.
They have a resilient crunchy texture when cooked, and exude a fresh earthy aroma reminiscent of cedar. Like most mushrooms, it's best to use the ones with unopened caps, when they are most fragrant.
I use a kombu dashi in this rice to bump up the level of umami without intruding on the purity of the mushrooms. The shimeji mushrooms are there mostly for presentation and texture, but you could really substitute just about any mushroom that doesn't have a ton of flavour, like enoki, chantrelle, or trumpet.
2 medium matsutake mushrooms (about 3 oz)
1.4oz shimeji mushrooms.
320g Japanese rice washed and drained (2 rice cooker cups)
2 Tbs sake.
1 Tbs mirin.
1 Tbs light soy sauce (usukuchi shoyu)
1 1/2 C kombu dashi.
1/4 tsp kosher salt.
mitsuba for garnish.
Thoroughly clean the matsutake mushrooms with a wet cloth and water. Trim off any rough bits at the bottom of the stem. Halve the mushrooms and slice each half lengthwise into 1/8" slices. Trim the bottoms off the shimeji mushrooms and pick off any debris.
Add the mushrooms, rice, sake, mirin, soy sauce, dashi and salt to a small enameled cast iron pot like a Le Creuset. Stir to combine the ingredients. Ideally you'll let this sit for about an hour before cooking, but if you're pressed for time, you can proceed to the next step right away.
Cover tightly with a lid and turn the heat onto medium high. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium low and maintain a gentle simmer for 20 minutes.
Turn off the heat and let the rice steam without opening the lid for another 10 minutes. Gently mix the matsutake gohan, serve into rice bowls and garnish with chopped mitsuba.