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Enoki mushrooms are a long, thin, white mushroom with a mild flavor and crunchy texture, which are popular in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cuisines. They’re typically sold in clusters and are used in soups, stir-frys, hot pots, salads, and other dishes.
What Are Enoki Mushrooms?
Enoki mushrooms, sometimes also called golden needle mushrooms, lily mushrooms, or enokitake, are a type of edible fungus, Flammulina velutipes, that grows naturally on the stumps of trees from late fall to early spring. The commercially cultivated varieties differ significantly from the ones that grow in the wild. Cultivated enoki mushrooms are deprived of light and grown in a CO2-rich environment, which produces a pale white mushroom with long, slender stems, up to five inches in length, and small caps.
Their roots are conjoined, so that the individual stems grow from a common, interconnected mass at the base. The mushrooms are sold with this root base still attached, but it needs to be trimmed off before using.
Typically served cooked, enoki mushrooms have a mild, nutty, slightly fruity flavor and a crunchy, slightly chewy texture. They’re easy and quick to cook and go well in soups and stews, stir-frys, hot pots, noodle dishes such as ramen and soba, as well as omelets, rice dishes, sushi, spring rolls, and curries. Bite-sized bundles of enoki mushrooms are sometimes wrapped in bacon, grilled, and then served in a spicy sauce. They can also be served fresh in salads.
One common use for enoki mushrooms in Japan is as an ingredient in making a savory-sweet condiment called nametake. Made by simmering fresh enoki mushrooms along with soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar, and rice vinegar, nametake is a popular condiment that is frequently served on top of rice, tofu, noodles, pasta, and other foods.
Cooking With Enoki Mushrooms
Enoki mushrooms are thin and delicate and cook quickly. Around two minutes of sautéeing yields a crunchy texture, while cooking beyond that will cause the enokis to become increasingly chewy.
To prepare enoki mushrooms, you’ll want to begin by trimming away the base of the mushroom bundle and then separate the individual strands of the mushrooms so that they cook evenly. Next, transfer them to a bowl of cold water and swish them around to wash, allowing any loose dirt particles to sink to the bottom of the bowl. Drain the mushrooms in a colander and repeat the cleaning process using fresh water if necessary.
One easy way to cook enoki mushrooms is as a simple side dish. After washing the mushrooms, heat a small amount of neutral oil, such as refined peanut oil or canola oil, in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for one minute, stirring constantly, before adding some chopped scallion and minced garlic. Cook for another 30 seconds, then season with soy sauce and serve.
Another way to use enoki mushrooms is to add the fresh mushrooms to a bowl of ramen, pho, or hot pot, and let the hot broth quickly cook them.
What Do They Taste Like?
Enoki mushrooms have a mild, earthy, slightly sweet, slightly fruity flavor. Their texture is crunchy when fresh and when lightly cooked, becoming chewier the longer it is cooked. They pair well with flavors such as soy sauce, lemongrass, garlic, miso, ginger, and seaweed.
Enoki Mushroom Recipes
Try adding enoki mushroom to these noodle and hot pot dishes.
- Asian Beef Ramen
- Soba Noodle Salad
- Seafood and Vegetable Hot Pot
Where to Buy Enoki Mushrooms
Enoki mushrooms can be found at Asian grocery stores and specialty food stores, such as Whole Foods and other grocery stores. They can also be purchased online, sometimes fresh and sometimes dried. Enoki mushrooms are typically sold in plastic packages, which makes it more difficult to inspect them, but try to select ones that are dry and firm, with a bright white color and fresh appearance, as opposed to slimy, soggy, or discolored.
Enoki mushrooms are often sold in plastic packaging, which as a general rule is not the best storage method for mushrooms, due to the fact that mushrooms expel moisture, which then becomes trapped inside the plastic and causes spoilage. So your best bet is to unwrap and use your enoki mushrooms right away. But, if you plan to store them in your fridge for any length of time, go ahead and remove them from their plastic bag and store them in a paper bag, loosely closed, inside the crisper drawer of your refrigerator set to the humid setting, where they’ll keep for 5 to 7 days.
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