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.
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!
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.
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!
The basic recipe for Japanese Nametake looks like this:
- 200g Enoki mushroom
- 2 – 3 Tbsp Soy Sauce (more detail on this later)
- 2 Tbsp Mirin
- 2 Tbsp Cooking Sake
- 1 Tbsp Sushi Rice Vinegar
- 1 tsp Sugar
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.
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.
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.
Step 2: Rinse your enoki under cold running water to remove any dirt or growing medium.
Step 3: Chop the enoki in 1″ – 2″ segments. Use whatever size you prefer, and then separate the larger chunks into individual threads.
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.
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.
Step 6: Once the nametake has reduced, (and most of the liquid has evaporated) add the 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.
Step 8: Eat! Nametake goes very well on top of rice or tofu.
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]