Nameko mushroom cluster on yellow background
Nameko: The Slimy Mushroom At The Heart Of Japanese Cuisine
By Elias Nash
In Japan, the nameko mushroom is second in popularity only to the shiitake mushroom. The name is derived from the Japanese word "Numerikko," which translates to "slimy mushroom."
Nameko mushrooms are a traditional element of Japanese miso soup, helping boost its umami-rich flavor and lending a smooth, silky texture.
"Nameko" is the most common colloquial name for Pholiota microspora. They are only a few centimeters and grow in tight clusters around dead trees between October and February.
The mushroom's caps range from amber to orange in color and are coated with slick, shiny, naturally occurring gelatin that only develops under humid conditions.
The slimy coat on nameko caps plays the same role as animal gelatin in bone broth, thickening soup and enhancing its mouthfeel.
For this same reason, nameko mushrooms are often included in nabemono, a Japanese stew cooked at the table in a hot pot using a basic dashi stock for a base.
You may also encounter nameko mushrooms as an element in rice porridge, noodle dishes, stir-fries, or even simply grilled and served as a side dish to accompany a meaty meal.
Cooking the mushrooms eliminates poisonous compounds that cause indigestion. When cooked, they take on a unique smell akin to butterscotch and offer an earthy, woodsy taste.
Nameko mushrooms were once quite rare, but the rise of nameko farms has changed that. Now they are cultivated year-round in Japan, Russia, and Southern California.