Bhutan is home to one of the most expensive mushrooms in the world

Email

There is even a festival for it, known as the Matsutake Mushroom Festival. There, you’ll get to sample various dishes prepared with this mushroom.

The Matsutake mushroom is one of the most expensive mushrooms in the world.

It can not be farmed. 

It can only grow directly underneath pine trees, below a cover of leaves, almost underground, while deep in the mountain forest. It depends on the host tree to grow, and thus has a symbiotic relationship with its roots. Those are pretty specific conditions.

Moreover, the Matsutake mushroom is slowly losing its habitats, no thanks to climate change.

Due to their rarity, it is no wonder that they cost so much. A rough estimate puts them at $1,000 to $4,000 per kilogram!

About Matsutake mushrooms

Matsutake mushrooms are thick and fat. You can identify them by their smell, which has an organic odour. The white surface has brown stains that make it look grimy. 

Taste-wise, it has a meaty texture and is juicy. Some people describe it as ‘spicy’ or ‘cinnamon’. It is very pungent and can overcome the other ingredients with it in a dish. Hence, when you eat it, it is advisable to slice thickly to preserve the flavour. 

In fact, there are people who enjoy eating the Matsutake mushrooms raw! They claim that it is the best way to experience the mushroom’s full flavour and aroma. Of course, they pull off the stem and scrub the top first, then season it with some oil and salt.

While the mushroom is considered a delicacy around the world, it is particularly popular in Japan. There, the mushroom is often used in sukiyaki, a steamboat type dish with dashi, sake, mirin, and sugar. They are also found in matsutake gohan, a dish of steamed rice with kombu dashi, soy sauce, sake, and mirin.

Given its popularity, Japanese scientists have tried to grow them in the lab, but the best they could produce was the Bakamatsutake mushroom with an aroma that is similar to their counterparts.

Unfortunately, these lab-created variants lack the spicy and earthy flavours found in the original wild ones.

Matsutake mushroom in Bhutan

The Matsutake mushroom can be found in Bhutan, known as Sangay Shamu, and is highly prized.

The Sangay Shamu season starts in July and lasts through August and September.

The Bhutanese usually cook these mushrooms with chilli and cheese. Nowadays, a common dish is a simple soup known as the Shamu Datshi. The savoury cuisine is made with Matsutake mushrooms, vegetables, a pinch of salt, and cheese. The mushrooms provide most of the flavours infused in the soup, whereas the cheese provides a creamy texture. Outside of Sangay Shamu season, the mushroom is replaced with other mushrooms like the gypsy, shitake, and oyster mushrooms.

Sangay Shamu is native to the forest in the Ura Valley in Bumthang and Genekha in Thimphu, where they grow clusters at the base of pine trees — both are known for their mushroom harvest.

Once a year during harvesting season, the locals walk through the valley to collect Sangay Shamu. The government of Bhutan legalised mushroom-picking to empower the people of these two villages.

Matsutake Mushroom Festival

There are foreigners who would specially travel to Bhutan in the autumn for the Sangay Shamu.

Noting the popularity of the mushroom, the Tourism Council of Bhutan started the Matsutake Mushroom Festival, held annually in Ura and Genekha in mid-August every year. 

It is a three-day festival to celebrate the harvest of the wild Sangay Shamu in Bhutan. It is to create awareness on sustainable harvesting.

The festival is organised by the gewog administration and mushroom management group. They teamed up with the national mushroom centre, the Department of Agriculture (DOA), and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MOAF).

For the public, the festival is an opportunity to sample the mushroom in the form of different dishes. As you might expect, there is also a range of other Bhutanese cuisines to devour. 

You’ll also learn about mushroom hunting and watch cultural programmes prepared by the local community. And as with most Bhutanese festivals, there are masked dances too.

The Matsutake mushrooms are getting rarer 

The Matsutake mushroom is becoming increasingly rare all over the world. For one, the mushroom’s natural habitat, the red pine forest, has come under attack from the pinewood nematode, an invasive worm that originated from North America. Not to mention climate change.

Just like the rest of the world, Bhutan is facing climate change. Glaciers are melting, affecting the ground condition and making it less ideal for the growth of the mushroom. At the rate we’re going, the Sangay Shamu won’t be around for long. 

Therefore, book your trip to Bhutan after the pandemic! Grab the opportunity to visit the Matsutake Mushroom Festival and taste Shamu Datshi for yourself. Word on the street is that you might even get to sample these exorbitantly priced mushrooms for free! 



Related Posts

8 most popular festivals in Bhutan that you should check out

Bhutanese festivals are colourfully vibrant affairs that draw crowds from all over the world.

May 14, 2021 17:15

In the Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan, are Bhutanese mostly...

Many foreigners perceive Bhutanese to be mostly vegetarians owing to its status as a Buddhist kingdom.

Apr 14, 2021 14:30

If you love vibrant colours, you’d love the textiles of Bhutan

From the dyeing to the weaving, the Bhutanese have nailed the process.

May 21, 2022 17:26

What went on at Miss Bhutan 2022 preliminary competition

The 3rd edition of Miss Bhutan is underway and the Preliminary Round was held and broadcast live on BBS Channel 2 on...

May 19, 2022 21:11

Check out Drunken Yeti Bar for the best cocktails in Thimphu

Named after a mythical Himalayan creature and perched on top of a distinct and unique 3-storied building in Thimphu,...

May 17, 2022 21:11

“Wine and women are my meditation”: Drukpa Kuenley, the divine...

His phallus was referred to as the “Thunderbolt of Flaming Wisdom”. He used it to guide people toward enlightenment.

Apr 28, 2022 22:04

Latest

News

Colours Beyond the Wall Volume II: Reformation through Art

‘Do you see the eyes?’ ‘Look closely and you would see the eyes with tears streaming down. And this is the nose,’ Kinga (name changed) said...

Apr 26, 2022 22:01

Travel to Bhutan: go off the beaten path in eastern Bhutan

You will find settlements on high grounds and isolated valleys. You will see rolling hills, deep gorges, and green pastures.

Mar 28, 2022 15:44

Features

If you love vibrant colours, you’d love the textiles of Bhutan

From the dyeing to the weaving, the Bhutanese have nailed the process.

May 21, 2022 17:26

What went on at Miss Bhutan 2022 preliminary competition

The 3rd edition of Miss Bhutan is underway and the Preliminary Round was held and broadcast live on BBS Channel 2 on 15th May 2022 from...

May 19, 2022 21:11

Business

The enormous role of hydropower in Bhutan

Bhutan uses hydropower to conserve the environment, produce electricity, and achieve economic self-reliance.

Jan 25, 2022 11:43

Online businesses are becoming more and more popular in Bhutan

Even though the Internet was developed in the 1960s, the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan was only introduced to it in June 1999.

Jan 20, 2022 12:41

Sports

Outstanding individuals, schools and clubs awarded for their contributions to grassroots football

On December 22, 2021, the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF), a bronze member of the AFC Grassroots Charter,presented awards to unsung heroes...

Jan 11, 2022 14:15

Bhutan's national women cricket team won ICC Women's T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier 2021 opening match

The United Arab Emirates is currently hosting the ICC Women's T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier. The two ICC Academy grounds in Dubai Sports City...

Nov 23, 2021 11:13

Travel

Trace the footsteps of the Divine Madman on this hiking trail

There is no better way to connect spiritually with Drukpa Kuenley, the “Divine Madman”. The trail will take you downhill for about four...

Apr 28, 2022 22:30

Been to Bhutan before? Stand a chance to win FREE flight tickets to back to Bhutan!

If you’ve been to Bhutan before, we want to hear your story.

Apr 15, 2022 19:49

Lifestyle

What are those singing bowls that you see in Bhutan

The vibrations from the bowl affect your body and mind.

May 22, 2022 12:06

The hot springs of Bhutan are believed to have miraculous healing properties

The Bhutanese believe that hot springs are a blessing from the Buddha.

Apr 08, 2022 21:52

COVID-19

A detailed summary of Bhutan's COVID-19 management and plans moving forward

With offices and all businesses open, movement of vehicles allowed and critical services resumed from 21st March 2022, Bhutan braces for a...

Mar 22, 2022 11:23

Vaccinated tourists to undergo 5-day quarantine in Bhutan from April 25

What you need to know about entering Bhutan from April 25.

Mar 14, 2022 14:21

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!