Making Nametake

It’s no secret that the Tako family loves a good meal.  We routinely post pictures of our meals on this site — because I firmly believe you don’t have to sacrifice good living to reach financial independence!   Our grocery spending usually amounts to a mere $500 per month.

For us, eating well is just part of living a good life.

Over the past few years our diet has changed considerably — we eat less bread (because of a gluten allergy), and we try to eat a plant-based diet rather than a meat-based diet.

That means less bread, less red meat, and a whole lot more plants.  It’s cheaper and healthier for us.  In the long run, this change of diet should also mean lower medical costs for our family as well.

Unfortunately, I have been very lax in my food writing duties lately — I have neglected an entire food kingdom that deserves serious respect for its flavors, healthiness and frugality.

I’m talking about mushrooms…


Are You A Fungi?

OK, I admit it — I love mushrooms, but I don’t cook with them nearly often enough.  Unfortunately, Western cuisine really doesn’t use a whole lot of mushrooms — Probably because of the few varieties available.

Japanese cuisine is a completely different story.  Traditional Japanese dishes (in contrast), use a ton of mushrooms — shitake, maitake, shimeji (two kinds), eringi, matsutake, nameko, kikurage, and enoki.  Those are just the most common varieties, but there are literally dozens of other mushrooms used in Japanese cooking!

(No, Japanese food isn’t just sushi and miso soup.)

Enoki mushrooms in particular are one of my favorites.  What’s an enoki mushroom you ask? —  Enoki mushrooms are a variety of Japanese mushroom with a long threadlike appearance.  You’ve probably seen them in most asian grocery stores, and a few health food stores.

enoki mushrooms
Commercially produced enoki mushrooms. Usually available at asian food stores next to the tofu.

Recently, I visited my local asian market and stumbled onto a good sale on enoki mushrooms.  Being the opportunist that I am, I couldn’t resist such a great deal on one of my favorite Japanese mushrooms.

What can you make with gobs of enoki mushrooms?  Nametake!


Making Nametake

Today, I’m going to cook Japanese nametake for you!  Nametake is a personal favorite of mine.  It’s typically used as a topping on rice, and it’s ridiculously good .  It goes great with both rice and tofu.  Unfortunately, it’s also really hard to find outside of Japan.  When you do find it, the stuff sells for ridiculously high prices.

nametake for sale
Even my local asian grocer is in this nametake extortion racket. They’re charging $5.49 for 7.5 oz!  That’s $11 per pound.  More than a steak!

Amazon isn’t any better in this regard either.  There are a couple sellers online, but they seem to think the stuff is made of gold.  These are ridiculous prices for something that can be made at-home extremely easily.

So that’s exactly what I did.  For $2 in mushrooms, I’ll make what sells on Amazon for $19.99 .  It only takes 5 minutes of labor and 30 minutes of cooking time.  Who knew building wealth was so damn easy!

enoki receipt
My receipt.  Six packages of enoki for less than $2. That’s 600 grams of mushroomy goodness!  Less than $2 per pound.

The basic recipe for Japanese Nametake looks like this:

For those of you looking to cut refined sugar, feel free to skip the sugar — the mirin provides plenty of sweetness for this application.  If you need gluten-free, there are also several gluten free soy sauces now available that are very good.

The sauces:  Be sure to use real Japanese sauces to get an authentic flavor for this dish.  Kikkoman, Yamasa, and Marukan are the real deal.  I buy them by the gallon, but smaller sizes will work just as well.

I’m a big believer in using the right sauces for the job.  Try to use real Japanese sauces to get an accurate flavor for this dish.  Real Japanese brands commonly available in the States include: Kikkoman, Yamasa, and Marukan.

(Side note:  For those of you interested in some free family fun, Yamasa corporation offers free factory tours near Choshi, Japan and Salem, Oregon.  If you’re interested in taking a tour of the Salem factory, call 503-363-8550 in advance to schedule a tour.  Free factory tours are one of my favorite activities! )

The Sushi rice vinegar is a little bit tricky because it’s a very light flavored vinegar… and often sold right next to straight vinegars.  Plain rice vinegar or white vinegar won’t taste quite the same.

sushi rice vinegar
How do you know if you have sushi rice vinegar? It says so right on the label in Japanese– “Sushi Vinegar”. Right there in big bold letters.  Who the hell knows why they don’t bother to print the words in English.

If your rice vinegar doesn’t have Japanese on it, look for the words “Seasoned”.


Step 1:  First, you’ll need to open and remove the harder ends of the enoki.  I literally do this while the enoki are still in the bag by chopping the bottom 1/2 inch off, including the plastic.

cutting enoki bottoms
I literally just take a knife and chop the bottom 1/2″ inch off the bottom of the entire package.  Usually this will remove enough of the tough-end, and any remaining growing medium.

Step 2:  Rinse your enoki under cold running water to remove any dirt or growing medium.

washed enoki
Washed and ready rumble!

Step 3:  Chop the enoki in 1″ – 2″ segments.  Use whatever size you prefer, and then separate the larger chunks into individual threads.

chop enoki
Chop the enoki into your preferred size  See those big clumps?  We want to separate those into smaller pieces.

Step 4:  Place the enoki into a pan or a pot (it really doesn’t matter) and turn your heat to “MEDIUM”.  Add the soy sauce, sugar, mirin, and cooking sake into the pan.  Skip the vinegar at this stage.  Stir the enoki and sauce thoroughly.  Continue breaking up larger chunks with a spoon or spatula while the nametake simmers.

enoki ingredients
Add all the ingredients (EXCEPT the vinegar) at the same time you add the enoki to the pan.

I suggest only using 2 Tbsp’s of soy sauce to begin with.  This recipe is a reduction, which means the flavors become very concentrated as the nametake thickens.  It’s better to add a little soy sauce later than to have too much.

Step 5:  Continue to simmer the nametake until the mushrooms are completely cooked and the liquid thickens.  Stir frequently.

simmering nametake
Simmer until the liquid reduces.  Be careful not to burn the soy sauce.

Step 6:  Once the nametake has reduced, (and most of the liquid has evaporated) add the sushi rice vinegar.

add vinegar
Time for sushi rice vinegar.

Cook for a two more minutes (stirring in the vinegar), and taste the nametake.  If you want it saltier, add one additional tablespoon of soy sauce and cook for another minute.

Step 7:  Turn off the heat and move the nametake into a storage container.  I prefer to use these glass snap-tight containers.  It will store in the refrigerator for several weeks without spoiling.

Nametake storage
Unlike fresh enoki, nametake can be stored in the fridge for several weeks.

Step 8:  Eat!  Nametake goes very well on top of rice or tofu.

nametake breakfast
Nametake works equally well with breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Enjoy!

Final Thoughts

For a family trying to eat healthy on a budget, we really like Japanese recipes.  They’re healthy, light, budget friendly, and extremely delicious.  We’re trying to not eat a lot of red meat in our diet, but it’s tough because traditional Western dishes use a lot of meat.

So, we look to other cuisines, and make most of our food at home.  It takes a little bit of extra effort, but the results are soooo worth it!

I hope this recipe will inspire you to try more wonderful Japanese mushroom dishes — While the ingredients may be “foreign” they are easy to cook, very affordable, and the results are simply delicious.


[Image Credit: Flickr]

19 thoughts on “Making Nametake

  • June 24, 2017 at 4:25 AM

    With it so cheap to make, and so expensive to buy, do I sense a business opportunity? You may want to provide a phonetic spelling to avoid confusion – nah-meh-tah-kay

    I’m not a big mushroom fan, but the vinegar taste may conquer that. It’s also nice to have a food that can keep for so long without spoiling.

    Nicely done!
    Paul recently posted…The Case for DIY

    • June 26, 2017 at 8:44 AM

      There’s no “mushroomy” taste left after it’s been cooked. The predominant flavors are the soy sauce and rice vinegar.

  • June 24, 2017 at 5:59 AM

    That looks amazing! Except Mr. FIRE is allergic to mushrooms 🙁 It is the biggest sticking point in our relationship… maybe I should trade him in for one that can eat the best food in the world?
    LadyFIRE recently posted…Frugal Fooding

    • June 26, 2017 at 8:42 AM

      Haha! It tastes pretty amazing too!

      Mr. FIRE didn’t used to be a mushroom farmer did he? I’ve heard people who live and work around mushroom spores can develop allergies over time…just like farmers can become allergic to grain dust.

  • June 24, 2017 at 6:38 AM

    That looks delicious. Well done! I would eat it with sweet potatoes and tofu or Japanese Pumpkin (steamed or baked), tofu, nametskd and raw cashew nuts. I’m a vegan.

  • June 24, 2017 at 8:08 AM

    Boy that looks good and delicious. I love mushrooms so will have to give that a try one day. For some reasons the kids like raw mushrooms more than cooked ones, probably because of the texture.

    • June 26, 2017 at 8:38 AM

      As often as you travel to asia, I’m surprised you haven’t had this before!

  • June 24, 2017 at 9:44 AM

    Zomg. I’m on a diet and I keep reading all these delicious food posts. It’s murder!

    Also, I am human or cephalopod.

  • June 24, 2017 at 10:08 AM

    Wow when I saw the title, I literally wondered “What’s ‘name-take’?”

    You seem to be a great cook! I like enoki too. I usually put it in soup or stir-fry it and eat it with rice. I do think Japanese cuisine is very healthy given the rare use of red meat and oil. Reading your post makes me want to try this recipe asap!

  • June 24, 2017 at 12:39 PM

    Oh interesting! I haven’t heard of nametake before, so thanks for sharing. 🙂 Mr. Picky Pincher is an absolute mushroom nut, so I’ll share this with him. 🙂

  • June 24, 2017 at 9:05 PM

    Wow…that looks good. I am really glad you are back to the food posts, your salsa recipe is the bomb! I have also been noticing recently how expensive sauces are like BBQ or Teriyaki sauce are. At least once that don’t have a bunch of preservatives, so I have taught myself to make more of these.

    Our family does not consume alcohol, so I am wondering if there is a substitute for the Sake or if it can just be left out.

    • June 26, 2017 at 7:22 AM

      Hi Marisa — the vast majority of the alcohol does cook off, but I suppose you could use water instead. It won’t taste exactly the same, but pretty darn close!

  • June 26, 2017 at 5:36 AM

    That looks fabulous! I adore enoki, usually in hot pot soup. But now I have another great way to use it, I’m going to need to visit my favorite H Mart this weekend I think…

  • June 26, 2017 at 8:04 AM

    Love it! Enoki mushrooms are my fav too. Going to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  • June 26, 2017 at 9:24 AM

    This. Is. Awesome!!!

    My husband hates mushrooms. Enokis are the only ones he will eat so I’m definitely going to make this.

    What is the difference between mirin and cooking sake? I thought they were the same thing. Should I buy both or skip on one?

    Thank you! 🙂

    • June 26, 2017 at 7:38 PM

      Buy both. They’re completely different. Sake is “rice wine”. The cooking variety can be found at grocery stores instead of your local bottle shop. Maybe it has a lower alcohol content, I’m not sure (I’ve never purchased drinking sake).

      Mirin is a kind of Japanese sweetener made from rice and some form of sugar. I believe it’s fermented (or it was traditionally). The versions I’ve used have little to no alcohol. There’s a whole bunch of different kinds of it, and I’m certainly not an expert. It’s very sweet, almost like a simple syrup (or honey) but with a rice flavoring. It’s commonly used in things like teriyaki, yakitori, and sukiyaki. It’s one of the ingredients in the Japanese “trinity” (dashi, mirin, and soy sauce).

      The difference between the two is kindof like wine and a fruit smoothie. Completely different beasts.

  • June 26, 2017 at 2:51 PM

    Yum! I eat enoki mushrooms all the time. We Koreans typically like putting them in stews. Most often in Kimchi Stew (Kimchi Jjigae) or in hot pots (jungohl).


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