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

Bhutanese actor raise awareness on climate change by cycling...

Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk launched The Messenger: Ride for Action, planting trees and talking to everybody.

Nov 25, 2022 15:18

Cordyceps Sinensis, the super mushrooms of Bhutan

Cordyceps Sinensis has many health benefits, which includes being an aphrodisiac.

Sep 25, 2022 16:50

The King of Bhutan regularly visits his people

The royals of Bhutan have an honourable legacy. Visiting their people is part of it.

Sep 25, 2022 16:35

Here is what you need to know about tailoring in Bhutan

Bhutan continues to train tailors in both traditional Bhutanese tailoring and western dressmaking.

Aug 28, 2022 21:56

Latest

News

Progress on Bhutan's Sustainable Low Emission Urban Transport System Project

Bhutan now has 200 electric vehicles on the road, with another hundred to be dispatched very soon.

Nov 29, 2022 18:13

Translation of His Majesty's Address to the Nation at the 8th Session of the Third Parliament

His Majesty delivered the Royal Address on the Opening Ceremony of the 8th Session of the Third Parliament, 4th November, 2022.

Nov 05, 2022 15:23

Features

Bhutanese actor raise awareness on climate change by cycling through Bhutan

Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk launched The Messenger: Ride for Action, planting trees and talking to everybody.

Nov 25, 2022 15:18

Cordyceps Sinensis, the super mushrooms of Bhutan

Cordyceps Sinensis has many health benefits, which includes being an aphrodisiac.

Sep 25, 2022 16:50

Business

Bhutanese streaming platform Samuh is gaining international recognition

Founder and CEO of Samuh, Nyema Zam, recently won the Business Rice Awards 2022.

Dec 30, 2022 19:15

School in Lhuentse embrace entrepreneurship through Chip Production Unit

Bhutan endeavours to guide their youth towards innovation and creativity. The trickle-down effect has seen Tangmachu Central School’s...

Nov 29, 2022 18:04

Sports

Paro FC wins the 2022 BOB Bhutan Premier League

Paro FC wins third Premier League title in nail biting fashion in final match of the season.

Jan 09, 2023 15:45

More Bhutanese youths are engaged in football

Sitting at the 186th position in the FIFA rankings, Bhutan looks to improve its rankings in the years to come.

Aug 03, 2022 20:19

Travel

A tale of two airports in Bhutan

As the slow pace towards a pre-pandemic world begins, two of the country’s domestic airports are going through their own challenges and...

Nov 03, 2022 16:30

What you need to know about birdwatching in Bhutan

The best seasons and locations for birdwatching in the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Sep 25, 2022 16:57

Lifestyle

Chillies, a spicy affair in Bhutan

The Bhutanese love it hot.

Jun 07, 2022 23:55

Bhutan is traditionally a matriarchal society

Women are the decision-makers at home, but something is keeping them from public life.

May 27, 2022 22:14

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!