Autumn is my favorite season. I love the foliage, the chill in the air, the shift in sunlight. In Japan, it is a great time of year to EAT! Mushrooms, grilled sanma (saury), shinmai (new rice), persimmon, and satoimo (Japanese taro) abound, and certain dishes begin to pop up on menus that signal the change in season. Japan is a place that is completely dictated by the seasons when cooking and it is a special treat to visit during the fall.
So when my dad Kuni puts dobinmushi on the menu at his restaurant, it could only mean that the matsutake mushrooms have arrived. Like sanma, the window to harvest matsutake is fleeting, disappearing almost as quickly it arrives.
Matsutake are known for their unique fragrance. When you bite into one, it is a wonderful bouquet of the forest floor, like a perfume from deep in the woods. Matsutake are highly coveted and revered in Japan, which means a steep price tag, not unlike truffles in France.
No dish celebrates this prized mushroom like dobinmushi, or matsutake broth served in a little tea pot.
Dobin, means ceramic teapot and mushi means to steam, so this dish must be made in a teapot for it to truly be donbinmushi. Kuni puts chicken, a shrimp, ginnan (gingko nuts), and a helping of sliced matsutake into the teapot, filling it with dashi and a peel of sudachi, a Japanese citrus that also begins harvest in the fall. He puts all of this on the stove to heat.
The cup is upside down on the teapot and served with a slice of sudachi, which you squeeze into the broth before serving. Full of umami goodness, drink the broth like you would a cup of tea!
Once you've enjoyed the broth, eat everything in the teapot.
Kuni says that matsutake season in the Bay Area depends largely on rainfall during the autumn months, and he sources his mushroom from Japanese supermarkets like Mitsuwa and Marukai. He says that all of the ingredients he adds are traditionally included in dobinmushi, but some regions in Japan, like Kyoto, might only include matsutake and dashi.
Behold the flavors of autumn. Enjoy!
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