A visit to an all-fungi restaurant in Mexico City

Mexico has a long history of mushroom cultivation and consumption since pre-Hispanic times. But for a long time, those traditions were dismissed and forgotten. Now, the country is rediscovering recipes and methods for cultivating, eating and preserving wild mushrooms.

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The welcome drink at Tencüi restaurant in Mexico City is a deep-black cocktail. It’s made with mezcal and cuitlacoche, a fungus that grows in Mexican corn.

Tencüi opened its doors two years ago. Its name means“connection” in the language of the Aztecs. Chef Mario Espinosa, the restaurant’s owner, said the goal is to highlight Mexican varieties of mushrooms in all items on the menu.

Guiso de hongos served at Tencüi restaurant in Mexico City.Courtesy of Tencüi restaurant

Each plate is thoughtfully prepared and more delicious than the next. The server brings toast with a mushroom pate, cranberries and nuts.

Espinosa’s signature dishes include Lion’s Mane dumplings, black pearl oyster mushroom tartare, and, of course, tacos with different varieties of fungi.

For dessert, there’s a shiitake covered in chocolate with almond paste.

Shiitake mushrooms covered in chocolate with berry garnishes. Tibisay Zea/The World

Espinosa said that the dining experience at Tencüi also includes a visit to a lab in the back of the restaurant where 15 varieties of Mexican mushrooms are cultivated. 

“We create a humid microclimate in the lab where mushrooms thrive,” he said.

Diners at the Tencüi restaurant in Mexico City can enjoy a short tour of the lab in the back of the restaurant where 15 varieties of Mexican mushrooms are cultivated.Tibisay Zea/The World

Diners frequently ask if any of the mushrooms are psychedelic, but Espinosa said that it can be complicated to offer that kind of experience to clients, “so we prefer to focus more on the flavor and nutrition side of fungi.”

Mushrooms are a great source of protein, vitamins and antioxidants and are also low in calories and fat.

Cordero Katahdin de Puebla dish at Tencüi restaurant in Mexico City.Courtesy of Tencüi restaurant

It is estimated that there are over 2,000 edible mushroom species, and around 100 of these are cultivated, according to Gina Rae, an environmental anthropologist and a food researcher. 

“So, eating mushrooms is one way we can add more diversity of flavors and nutrients into our diets,” she said.

But Rae added that there’s been an aversion to eating wild mushrooms in the West, especially since colonial times.

Tlacoyo con hongos served at Tencüi restaurant in Mexico City.Courtesy of Tencüi restaurant

“The idea that humans were separate from nature became very entrenched, and it was a tool that was used to actually subjugate Indigenous populations and destroy the environmental resources they were finding,” she said. “And now, we’re really starting to understand that we are wild. Everything is wild. And bringing that wildness back is really important.” 

Mexico has a long tradition of cultivating and eating mushrooms going back to pre-Hispanic times, and according to Daniel Reyes, who runs a fungi consulting lab in Yucatán, Mexico, there’s been a recent push to rediscover ancient traditions of Indigenous people in Mexico.

Mezcla de hongos served at Tencüi restaurant in Mexico City.Courtesy of Tencüi restaurant

“Recipes, ways to prepare the mushrooms, ways to conserve the mushrooms,” Reyes said, “A lot of this knowledge has been passed through generations.”

Mexico has more species of edible mushrooms than any other country except China. But the mushroom mania is taking over the world. Fungi-focused restaurants are also beginning to proliferate in places such as New York, London and Jakarta.

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