07: Smell like soldier ‘s socks? What is Matsutake?

Writer: Tamaki Kashiwagi

A typical Japanese food in autumn would be “Matsutake”. It is a mushroom that grows in red pine forests (“Matsu” means a pine tree, “Take” means a mushroom). Matsutake is a wild diet in two ways.



The first is the price. The domestic Matsutake in Japan costs as much as 2,000 US dollars per kilo! It is because Matsutake is very rare as the growth is very slow, and it is very hard to find them in the forests. It is a little bit like a truffle, as most part of fully-grown Matsutake is underground. Also, the cultivation of Matsutake is almost impossible. Other countries like China started the cultivation, but the quality cannot match the natural Matsutake. The natural-grown Matsutake is also harvested in Korea, China and Canada, but the Japanese ones are said to be the best quality because of the soil and weather.

Often, the owners of forests where Matsutake grows never tell the locations of their forests even to their relatives and best friends to prevent them to be stolen! When the autumn comes, the price of Matsutake is sometimes announced on TV (oh, what a peaceful country Japan is!). These are the examples of how valuable Matsutake is in Japan.

The other reason that Matsutake is extraordinary is its smell. In Europe and the United States, Matsutake is called “a mushroom with the smell of soldier’s socks”!! The scientific name of Matsutake is “Tricholoma nauseosum”. As you can see here, “nauseosum” come from the word “nauseous” (Tricholoma is a kind of mushroom). So it means it is a mushroom that makes you nauseous when you smell it!! But for us, the Japanese, it smells wonderful and makes us to dig in!


Rice and variety of mushrooms!

The most popular way of eating Matsutake in Japan is “Matsutake-gohan”. It is rice cooked with Matsutake. I’m sure you don’t want to eat “rice smells like soldier’s socks”. So let’s use other mushrooms instead. Can you find Eryngii in your country?



It is also known as a king trumpet mushroom, French horn mushroom, king oyster mushroom or king brown mushroom in some places. Eryngii has a similar texture to Matsutake without the strong smell. So it can be a good substitute.

If you cannot find it, you can cook rice with other mushrooms. When you have a chance to go to a Chinatown, you can search for dried Shiitake mushroom. Or you might find dried Porcini in an Italian food store. Soak them in a bowl of water overnight if they are dried, cut them into a bite-size, squeeze the water out and mix them with soy sauce and sake.



Do not through away the water. If you don’t have sake, use white wine instead. Put rice and mushrooms together into a rice cooker or pot, add water and cook it as you cook normal rice. Use the water that you soak the mushrooms because the water has wonderful flavor of mushroom and makes your rice tastier.


If you want to try “rice smells like soldier’s socks”, why don’t you visit Japan between September and November and go to a specialized restaurant?


Rice with Mushrooms Ingredients (SERVES:2)

Rice 2cups
Eryngii 1package
Soy sauce 2tbs
Sake(White wine) 2tbs
Water 350ml