A bargain deal on expensive ingredients makes our reporter think twice about her ideas of cooking. 

When you think of fall food in Japan, a lot of different flavors come to mind: chestnuts, sweet potatoes, persimmons

Those are all ingredients that your average, everyday consumer can afford, which is nice if you feel like getting into the fall spirit. But there’s one fall ingredient that every Japanese person dreams of being able to eat on the regular, and that’s matsutake mushrooms.

Faced with a dwindling of the pine forest habitats in which they grow, and being almost completely impossible to grow commercially, matsutake mushrooms have become a delicacy that comes with a price tag many can’t afford. That’s why when our Japanese-language reporter Ikuna Kamezawa was offered a steal of a deal for Matsutake mushrooms, she had to take it.

Ikuna was strolling through the Ueno-Tokyo shopping neighborhood of Ameyokocho when a shop attendant hailed her from the sidelines. “Miss! I’ve got cheap matsutake just for you!”

With Ikuna’s attention sufficiently captured, he proceeded to further woo her with sweet words. “I usually sell three matsutake stalks for 8,000 yen (US$55.46), but since you’re so beautiful I’ll give them to you at the special price of 3,000 yen!” Ikuna didn’t have to be told twice; she gave the man her money and ran off with her matsutake in hand, in case he changed his mind.

Now I can live my dream of casually snacking on matsutake mushrooms,” Ikuna thought, clutching the vinyl plastic bag to her chest with stars in her eyes.

As soon as she got back to the office and opened up the package, the mushrooms’ rich, spicy smell filled her nostrils. It was so strong that Ikuna was inclined to recoil, but didn’t out of the respect for how much money she could have spent on them.

The standard method of cooking matsutake mushrooms is usually thin-slicing and grilling or steaming them, but Ikuna wanted to try something a little bit different: stuffing them with meat. Some might consider this a waste of such a luxury ingredient, but Ikuna thought that by preparing them like ordinary, less expensive shiitake mushrooms, she could make herself feel like a rich person.

With only a few, carefully suppressed reservations, Ikuna sliced off the top of the mushrooms.

The head of the mushroom looked exactly like a shiitake mushroom.

To clean the dirt off, Ikuna didn’t wash them but instead wiped them down with a damp cloth. Then, so as not to waste the stalks, she finely chopped them…

Then added them to some minced meat. “This has got to be how celebrities eat matsutake!” Ikuna thought as she diligently mixed the ingredients together.

Her hands still trembled a bit as she dipped the heads in potato starch, though.

Next, she stuffed the meat mixture into the head of the mushroom…

Then placed them in a preheated frying pan and covered it with a lid.

After a few minutes, her celebrity life-inspired “Stuffed Matsutake” recipe was complete!

Ikuna had the two people who were at the office at the time try it without telling them what it was. She gave Takashi Harada, who claimed he hadn’t eaten matsutake in 10 years, the first piping hot bite.

Harada has the most undiscerning palate of all of us…would he be able to appreciate what a luxury food he was offered?


“It tastes kind of funny…”

Well, unsurprisingly, Harada was a bust. So Ikuna went to see if P.K. Sanjun would be able to appreciate it. He’s almost annoying about how picky he is about his flavors, so surely…?

“The flavor is kind of strong. Did you stuff a dried shiitake mushroom?”

“You made it with matsutake? Oh. I see.”

Well, that was an entirely unsatisfactory response. The second in a row, in fact. This would not do, so Ikuna decided to try it herself.

Oh…well, Ikuna could definitely see why someone would think they were stuffed shiitake. The dish didn’t really make good use of the pungent flavor of matsutake, which almost made it taste bad. In fact, as a whole, it had a pretty weird flavor.

The dish had lost everything good about matsutake, and had even turned out to be somehow interior to stuffed shiitake. There was absolutely no way any rich person would regularly eat this, Ikuna realized, and she hung her head in disappointment.

By the way, Ikuna had some leftover meat mixture, so she fried it up, and it ended up tasting like a really rich hamburg steak.

Ikuna now understood that there’s a reason for the plain method of preparing matsutake mushrooms that’s generally accepted as the standard. They are certainly not meant to be something you can just snack on or something you can use carelessly.

If you manage to get your hands on some matsutake mushrooms, learn from Ikuna’s mistake and be conscientious about how you use them! It’s worth it if you can prepare them right. And if you can’t find any raw mushrooms at a good price, don’t worry. There’s a soba restaurant in Tokyo where you can try them for cheap, so definitely check it out if you’re interested.

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