Jidi village sits in the center of the matsutake production area in Shangri-La. It’s already empty before 3 am. Villagers who are able to climb mountains are out-searching for the amazing mushroom. “If we are late, the others won’t give us a chance. We won’t find any matsutake because the others will have picked them all.” Zhuoma and her mother will hike to the ancient forest 20 kilometres away. Even to the villagers familiar with the forest, to find a matsutake is completely luck. High grade matsutake hides deep in the earth. The mother is looking for a pit that she concealed two days ago. Under the earth, a new matsutake is growing but it is very small due to a lack of rain. “My mother cares more about looking for matsutake than her own health. I’m a little worried that one day she might faint while in the mountain. She is getting old.”
Yak-butter-fried matsutake is common in the matsutake production area. Melt yak butter in a black clay pan. Then add the slices of matsutake. The slices are dried rapidly in hot oil and the fragrance’s released. Such luxurious ingredients need only to be cooked very simply. Tibetans didn’t like matsutake before because its strange taste. Matsutake used to be very cheap but recent years its price has shot up. To earn 10,000 yuan in one summer, herdsmen have to work hard in the rainy season. Matsutake prices are strictly based on grades. The matsutake products are divided into 48 grades before being sold. “This one can be rated as grade one. It’s quite good and big.” Matsutake mushroom can keep fresh for 3days at most so merchants processed it as delicately and as quickly as possible. A matsutake like this can be originally purchased for 80 yuan. And 6 hours later, it will appear at a supermarket in Tokyo priced at 700 yuan.