Types of Asian Mushroom

Different species of Asian dry fungi in lines. Assortment of dried mushrooms.
© Fotema/Shutterstock.com

Written by Telea Dodge

Published: December 28, 2023

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The world is filled with fungi. In fact, some experts suggest that there are as many as six million different species of fungi in the world, many of which produce mushrooms. As for species we’re sure of, the National Park Service claims that over 14,000 species of mushroom-producing fungi have been discovered and described by mycologists. Of these species, there are over 2,000 species of edible mushrooms. Today, we’ll be looking at mushrooms in Asia – both edible and poisonous. Asia is comprised of 48 different countries, including China, Japan, Thailand, Pakistan, Vietnam, and India. We could not possibly list all of the different species of mushrooms that grow across Asia, but we’re going to share a few of them here. Without further ado, here are 12 types of Asian mushrooms.

A Note on the Edibility of Mushrooms

Lion's mane lions Hericium erinaceus pom pom

A beautiful lion’s mane mushroom growing from a tree.

©Gertjan Hooijer/Shutterstock.com

Before we begin, it is imperative to note that this article should be used as a general guide and not as an authority on edible mushrooms. There are a number of great resources for determining edibility in mushrooms, and we recommend you check out expert guides specific to your region when identifying mushrooms. It is important to be careful to ensure that the guides you use are written and peer reviewed by experts. The rise of Artificial Intelligence adds unique dangers to the foraging world. A 2023 article by Emma VandenEinde speaks on the dangers of AI-generated foraging books – including the potential for inaccurate and dangerous information.

It is imperative to be sure that the fungi you have found is an edible one. A large number of edible mushrooms have dangerously poisonous look-alikes. Follow this general rule of thumb: if you are not completely sure that the mushroom you have found is edible, do not eat it. Now that we have disclaimers out of the way, let’s take a look at a few different types of Asian mushrooms. You can scroll to the bottom of this article for a comprehensive table of all of the mushrooms we list here.

1. Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)

Shiitake mushrooms growing on a plate

There are a few different cultivars of shiitake being grown worldwide.

©Mary Elise Photography/Shutterstock.com

Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular edible mushrooms in Asia. It makes its home on the decaying wood of deciduous trees, including ironwood, mulberry, poplar, shii, and oak. It grows in groups or clusters. Shiitake is native to East Asia, but it is cultivated and consumed all over the world.

2. Enoki (Flammulina filiformis)

Flammulina filiformis, enoki mushrooms
Flammulina filiformis

, enoki mushrooms.

©iStock.com/weisschr

Enoki mushrooms are native to China, Korea, and Japan. When cultivated they grow in dense clusters of thin, white mushrooms with small, convex caps. Enoki have several other names, such as “enokitake” and “gold needle mushroom”. It grows on the dead wood of broad-leaved trees.

3. Hiratake (Pleurotus ostreatus)

oyster mushroom in wild

Hiratake is a choice edible mushroom.

©NK-55/Shutterstock.com

You might know this mushroom as an oyster mushroom. Hiratake is the Japanese name for the oyster mushroom. This edible mushroom is both wild-growing and cultivated. It prefers to grow on beech trees, but can occur on other varieties of deciduous tree. Oyster mushrooms are saprotrophic – they feed on decaying organic matter rather than parasitizing healthy, living organisms.

4. Buna-Shimeji (Hypsizygus tessellatus)

Fresh beech mushrooms in clear plastic container

“Beech mushroom” is another common name for this adorable fungi.

©barmalini/Shutterstock.com

Buna-shimeji mushrooms, also called brown beech mushrooms or brown clamshell mushrooms, grow mostly on beech trees. They are native to East Asia and are edible. Buna-shimeji mushrooms are most commonly cultivated for consumption, but they are native to Japan – along with Canada and parts of the United States. Bunapi-shimeji also describes this species. The only difference between Buna-shimeji and Bunapi-shimeji is that the former is brown in color and the latter is white.

5. Maitake (Grifola frondosa)

Maitake mushroom, Grifola frondosa

You might know this mushroom by the name “Hen-of-the-woods”.

©Artvoyt/Shutterstock.com

Maitake is an incredible mushroom with an amazing number of nutritional and medicinal qualities. It grows prodigiously in several regions of the world, and is celebrated across several Asian countries. It is native to Japan, China, and Eastern North America. Oak, maple, and elm trees are its most common host. Maitake means “dancing mushroom” in Japanese. In China, it is “hui-shu-hua”, which means “grey tree flower”.

6. Nameko (Pholiota microspora)

Pholiota microspora, commonly known as Pholiota nameko or simply nameko is a small, amber-brown mushroom with a slightly gelatinous coating that is used as an ingredient in miso soup and nabemono.

Nameko is a standard ingredient in miso soup across Asia.

©Ordasiphoto/Shutterstock.com

This slimy-looking mushroom is a nameko mushroom. Nameko mushrooms are a very common mushroom in Japan – popular both wild-grown and in mushroom cultivation kits. Nameko mushrooms are native to Japan, but cultivation kits are very popular in China and Russia. This nutty mushroom grows on a variety of deciduous tree, including beech, oak, poplar, willow, and cherry. Nameko mushrooms are very popular in a variety of dishes, but especially in miso soup.

7. Straw Mushrooms (Volvariella volvacea)

Volvariella volvacea (also known as paddy straw mushroom or straw mushroom cultivation in basket

Beautiful straw mushrooms growing out of a cultivation basket.

©Banditta Art/Shutterstock.com

Straw mushrooms are incredibly popular world-wide. They grow across Southeast Asia, and get their name from the beds of rice straw they pop out of. They have a pink spore print, despite their off-white color. These nutrient-dense mushrooms are normally harvested and eaten or processed before they mature. They do grow in North America, but due to them looking like seriously toxic mushrooms, they are not recommended to be foraged. If you want to sample these popular mushrooms, check out your local Asian market. They may sell canned or dried straw mushrooms there.

8. Matsutake (Tricholoma matsutake)

Matsutake in a basket with confier needles

These matsutake fungi are displayed on a bed of pine needles to pay homage to their natural habitat and name.

©ykokamoto/Shutterstock.com

Matsutake mushrooms are a choice edible mushroom that grow in Japan, China and Korea. Some similar species grow in parts of North America, British Columbia, and northern Europe. Matsutake mushrooms are prized in Asian cultures. They now struggle to grow in many of these habitats though. These mushrooms require a very distinct climate, terrain and symbiotic trees in order to grow. Matsutake honors its name – “matsu” means “pine tree” in Japanese, while “take” means “mushroom” – and grows in dense coniferous forests. Japan was the largest producer of this mushroom for a time. Unfortunately, suitable habitats for this mushroom are dwindling in Japan today.

9. Kikurage (Auricularia heimuer)

Dried Kikurage (wood ear mushroom, Jew’s ear mushroom, fungus)

This edible fungus is often confused with its European relative

– Auricularia auricula-judae.

©funny face/Shutterstock.com

Kikurage – or black wood ear – is a very popular cultivated fungi in China. This wood-rotting species favors oak trees and grows naturally in northern China, Japan, Korea, and parts of Russia. Kikurage is a traditional food and medicine in China, with cultivation history dating back to the Tang Dynasty. Many Asian countries use it for food and medicine. Kikurage is sold in dried and shredded form worldwide. Common applications include ramen and other similar dishes.

10. Eringi/Eryngii (Pleurotus eryngii)

King Oyster Mushrooms in clusters.

King oyster mushrooms in clusters. These are edible mushrooms, some people even consider them choice. Their tender stalks are a big part of their allure.

©Tienuskin/Shutterstock.com

We return to oyster mushrooms now to look at the king oyster mushroom – or the eringi mushroom. This beautiful oyster species grows across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. It is one of the larger mushrooms in the genus. It is commonly used in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisine. The Eryngii mushroom has many names – such as “king trumpet” and “French horn mushroom” – and many uses. It grows on hardwood trees, as well as on grains and straw.

What About Poisonous Asian Mushroom Types?

Deadly, toxic death cap Amanita phalloides mushroom

Amanitas from section

Phalloideae

are responsible for over 90% of all mushroom related deaths in the world.

©iStock.com/empire331

Edible mushrooms are not the only fungi growing in Asian countries. In fact, Asia is home to some of the deadliest mushrooms in the world. Let’s take a look as some of the poisonous mushrooms that grow across Asia. Some of these mushrooms closely resemble edible mushrooms on our list. For this reason, we continue to advise that you do not consume any mushroom unless you are absolutely positive it is edible.

11. East Asian Death Cap (Amanita subjunquillea)

Macro photo of Amanita subjunquillea mushroom taken from below

An east Asian death cap macro photo displaying the beautiful gills of this toxic fungi.

©Wilys_031/Shutterstock.com

The genus Amanita has a lot of beautiful mushrooms, but some of them are extremely toxic. Several of the 1400 or so species of Amanita grow in Asia. Interestingly, not all of these mushroom species are poisonous or lethal. In Thailand, there are 19 different edible Amanita species, including A. rubromarginata and A. subhemibapha. However, we are not examining edible Amanitas now. The east Asian death cap grows in East and Southeast Asia. The east Asian brown death cap (Amanita fuliginea) is equally dangerous.

12. Kaentake (Podostroma cornu-damae)

Deadly poisonous mushroom "kaentake (Poison fire coral, Trichoderma cornu-damae) grow on stumps.

Some sources say that this mushroom is toxic to the touch, but that hasn’t been proven.

©saiglobalnt/Shutterstock.com

Kaentake, or poison fire coral, is, perhaps, one of the most dangerous mushrooms in the world. Don’t worry – it’s rare. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. In fact, this deadly coral mushroom has killed several people in Japan and Korea. Even skin contact with kaentake may result in irritation and rash. When consumed, this toxic fungi can cause multiple organ failure. Ingesting this mushroom leads to low blood pressure, peeling skill, hair loss, liver necrosis, acute kidney failure, and can even lead to death.

Summary

Different species of Asian dry fungi in lines. Assortment of dried mushrooms.

Asia is home to a plethora of mushrooms, both edible and inedible.

©Fotema/Shutterstock.com

We’ve covered 10 popular edible mushrooms and two very poisonous ones in this article. Obviously, this is just the top of the stalk. There are thousands of mushroom varieties in Asia, and we haven’t even discovered and named all of them. We’ll finish up by putting this information into a helpful table.

Mushrooms, Other Names, Edibility and Habitat

MushroomOther NamesEdibilityWhere It Grows
Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) Sawtooth oak mushroom, black mushroom, oakwood mushroom, black forest mushroom, golden oak mushroom, Chinese black mushroom.EdibleEast Asia
Enoki (Flammulina filiformis)Velvet foot, golden needle, jingu, lily mushroom, nim kim châm, enokitake.Choice edibleJapan, China, Korea
Hiratake (Pleurotus ostreatus)Oyster mushroom, oyster fungus, pearl oyster mushroom.EdibleWorldwide, including India, Korea, Japan, and China
Buna-Shimeji (Hypsizygus tessellatus)Brown beech mushroom, white beech mushroom, brown clamshell mushroom.Choice edibleJapan, East Asia
Maitake (Grifola frondosa)Hen-of-the-woods, hui-shu-hua, ram’s head, sheep’s head, kumotake, king of the mushrooms, signorina mushroom.EdibleAsia, Europe, North America
Nameko (Pholiota microspora)Nametake, forest nameko, forest mushroom, butterscotch mushroom, namesugitake.Choice edibleJapan
Straw Mushrooms (Volvariella volvacea)Chinese mushroom, paddy straw mushroom.EdibleEast and Southeast Asia
Matsutake (Tricholoma matsutake)Pine mushroom, tanoak mushroom, white matsutake, ponderosa mushroom.Choice edibleEast Asia, northern Europe, North America
Kikurage (Auricularia heimuer)Wood ear, black wood ear, tree ear, tree jellyfish, jelly mushroom, wood jellyfish, cloud ear fungus.EdibleChina, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Tibet
Eringi/Eryngii (Pleurotus eryngii)French horn, king trumpet, king brown, king oyster, trumpet royale, cardoncello.EdibleAsia, North Africa, East Asia, and the Mediterranean
East Asian Death Cap (Amanita subjunquillea)Amanita, death cap.Poisonous/lethalEast and Southeast Asia
Kaentake (Podostroma cornu-damae)Poison fire coral, fire coral, flame fungus, fire mushroom, flame antler, flame meat stick fungus.Poisonous/lethalEastern Asia and Australia


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About the Author

Telea Dodge is an animal enthusiast and nature fiend with a particular interest in teaching a sense of community and compassion through interactions with the world at large. Carrying a passion for wild foraging, animal behaviorism, traveling, and music, Telea spends their free time practicing their hobbies while exploring with their companion dog, Spectre.

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