All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Mukago Japanese & Chinese yam aerial tubers

Aerial tubers of jinenjo Japanese yam (Dioscorea japonica)

While mukago technically means vegetative reproduction organs (including lily or allium bulbs), when referring to food it usually indicates the aerial tubers of Dioscoreaceae family yams. Jinenjo Japanese yam (Dioscorea japonica) and nagaimo Chinese yam (Dioscorea batatas) are common Dioscoreaceae family yams.

Large mukago resemble kiwi berries in appearance.  They have either an oblong or globe shape and grow on vines. Mukago start to appear in fall (September in our area) and continue to become bigger for weeks. If not picked, they drop to the ground, where they will root the following spring. It is said to take three years to produce a large enough yam underground to harvest, yet my first set of tiny mukago (planted in a pot to control their wild spreading) has only grown to 10 cm long after 4 years -- still too small and skinny to harvest.

Mukago naturally share with parent yams such physical qualities as taste (plain), texture (sticky, similar to satoimo baby taro root) and nutrition (rich in digestive enzymes, arginine, mucin). One main difference, other than size, is that mukago are cooked to eat while parent yams are eaten raw or cooked.

One of the simplest way to enjoy mukago is grilling or deep-frying and serving with salt as a small companion dish for drinks. Putting them in steamed rice is also common, as with any in-season ingredient. They are often used in a combination with other fall ingredients, such as ginnan gingko nuts, kuri chestnuts, kaki persimmons, and mushrooms. Just like gingko nuts, mukago are often used as a tasty seasonal reminder with meals served at restaurants. They may be served skewered on pine needles for a decorative look (a common method for prepared ginnan and  kuromame black soybeans).

Recipe with mukago

Try mukago in the following recipes

(Last updated: October 9, 2017)

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