Originating as a simple dish from Rome, pasta carbonara relies heavily on rendered guanciale (cured pork jowl), or pancetta (an Italian salumi), to create what is essentially the ultimate bacon, egg and cheese dish.

It’s one of my favorite dishes to make (and eat), but authentic cured pork is nearly impossible to source in Japan — and no, those thin, flaccid slices of processed bacon just won’t cut it. But how can you make a legitimate carbonara without pork?

Working as a line cook in Philadelphia taught me to cherish maitake mushrooms. They were elusive (and expensive), but when they were in stock, every chef I knew would buy them up. I love them for their rich, earthy flavor and meaty texture — they are the star of any dish. When I first moved to Tokyo, I couldn’t believe how affordable and accessible they were.