The long, thin mushroom commonly used in soups is likely the enoki mushroom. Enoki mushrooms are a variety of white mushroom that have very long, thin stems and small caps. They are a popular ingredient in Asian soups, stir fries, and other dishes. In this article, we will take a closer look at enoki mushrooms, their characteristics, culinary uses, nutrition, and how to select and store them.
What are Enoki Mushrooms?
Enoki mushrooms, also known as enokitake, golden needle mushrooms, or lily mushrooms, are a cultivar of Flammulina velutipes. They are native to East Asia and were first cultivated in Japan in the 17th or 18th century.
Some key characteristics of enoki mushrooms:
- Long, thin stems – Stems can reach up to 4 inches long with a diameter of just 2-3 mm.
- Tiny caps – Caps are only around 1 cm wide.
- Clustered growth – They grow in tight clusters rather than singly.
- White color – The stems and caps are white, though the caps may develop a faint golden tint with age.
- Delicate, crunchy texture – The stems are slightly crispy.
- Mild taste – They have a delicate, mildly sweet flavor.
Commercially grown enoki are blanched or grown in the dark to keep them white in color. Wild enoki that grow in the light develop tan or brown caps.
Enoki mushrooms are highly versatile in the kitchen. Their crunchy texture and neutral flavor complement many dishes. Some popular ways they are used include:
Enoki are commonly added to soups, especially Asian soups like:
- Miso soup
- Hot and sour soup
- Wonton soup
- Egg drop soup
They can also be used in Western soups like chicken noodle soup, vegetable soup, or cream of mushroom soup. Their long strands and mild flavor nicely enhance the broth.
Enoki work well in stir fry dishes, where their crunch provides a nice contrast to other vegetables and ingredients. They are often paired with bok choy, napa cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, and proteins like shrimp, chicken or beef. A quick stir fry with garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and enoki mushrooms makes a tasty side dish.
The mushrooms pair beautifully with noodles, such as in pad thai, lo mein, and ramen. They can be scattered over a finished noodle dish or sautéed with the noodles and other vegetables.
Salads & Sandwiches
Thinly sliced or small clusters of enoki can be mixed into grain bowls, green salads, and slaws. Their crunch makes a nice topping for sandwiches and wraps too.
Other popular uses for enoki mushrooms include:
- Mushroom omelets or frittatas
- Pizza topping
- Vegetable sushi rolls
- Simmered in miso broth as an appetizer
Their mild taste allows enoki mushrooms to work in many dishes without overpowering other ingredients. They integrate especially well into Asian cuisine.
Nutrition & Health Benefits
Like other mushrooms, enoki provide an array of nutrients and potential health benefits:
Low in Calories
Enoki mushrooms are very low in calories – only about 10-20 calories per 100g. They are high in moisture and low in fat. This makes them a great addition to low calorie dishes.
High in Vitamin D
Enoki are a good natural source of vitamin D, with about 100 IU per 100g. Vitamin D supports bone health and immune function. Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D.
Source of B Vitamins
The mushrooms contain small amounts of B vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid and folate. These B vitamins help convert food into energy and support nervous system function.
A 100g serving provides about 2g of dietary fiber. Fiber promotes fullness and healthy digestion. It also feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome.
Enoki provide potassium, with about 300mg per 100g. Potassium helps reduce blood pressure and balance fluids in the body.
Research shows enoki mushrooms contain antioxidants like ergothioneine and phenolic compounds. These may help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
Possible Anti-Cancer Effects
Studies indicate mushrooms contain compounds like polysaccharides, lectins and enzymes that may inhibit tumor growth. Specific anti-cancer effects from enoki mushrooms require further research.
Overall, enoki mushrooms provide an array of important nutrients for very few calories. Incorporating them into a healthy diet can boost your nutrient intake.
How to Select & Store Enoki Mushrooms
When shopping for enoki mushrooms, look for:
- Firm, white stems with intact clusters
- No signs of drying, browning or mushiness
- Small, tightly closed caps
Avoid any enoki with broken or mushy stems. The fresher the mushrooms look, the better.
- Store enoki in the refrigerator in a paper bag or box – do not wash them before storing
- Use within 3-7 days for best flavor and texture
- Do not freeze, as they will become mushy when thawed
Handle the clusters gently to avoid breaking the delicate stems. Rinse or soak the mushrooms just before using to remove any dirt.
With their unique look, mild taste and great nutritional value, it’s no wonder enoki mushrooms are a staple in Asian cuisine. Next time you see those little white bundles at the store, consider picking some up to add to your next soup, stir fry or noodle bowl.
Enoki mushrooms are the long, thin white mushrooms often added to soups and Asian dishes. Key facts:
- They have very long, skinny stems and tiny caps.
- Enoki have a crisp texture and mild, sweet flavor.
- They are low in calories and high in vitamin D.
- Enoki work well in soups, stir fries, noodles, and salads.
- Look for fresh, firm clusters with white stems when buying.
- Store refrigerated in a paper bag and use within a week.
With their versatility, nutrition and unique look, enoki mushrooms are a great ingredient to keep on hand. Add them to your cooking repertoire for delicious and healthy meals.