|White truffles from Alba|
The steamed crabs are eaten with a lot of ceremony and tradition.
As the crabs cannot be farmed, so each year the numbers vary. This year there aren't many crabs, but I've heard they are of a high quality.
Meanwhile the Italians also look forward to this period with the appearance of white truffles.
|Truffles shaved on top of veal cheek agnolotti|
While the truffles may look like potatoes, they are pungent. A colleague asked me to describe what they smelled like and I didn't know where to begin except to say they are earthy.
They are usually kept with arborio rice and eggs in the same container so that they can absorb the truffle flavour.
White truffles are best eaten with the simplest of dishes -- a fried egg or pasta with butter.
|Risotto with Piedmont cheeses, chanterelles and truffles|
One of my most memorable encounters with white truffles was many years ago at Grissini in the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, where I had a fried sunny side up egg with truffles shaved on top. It was absolutely heavenly. Another dish was a simple risotto flavoured with the truffles. Amazing.
Since then I've been thinking about them every late October and November. And now a decade later I was very lucky to try them again last night at 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo in Central. A delegation from Piedmont, Italy was there and brought with them some white truffles from Alba.
The truffles were quite large and pungent too when released from their glass case. The excited maitre d' ceremoniously shaved the truffles onto each of our plates, four courses that included roast lobster, veal cheek agnolotti, risotto and beef tenderloin.
The thinly-sliced truffles graced our plates like giant light brown snowflakes that enhanced the flavours of each dish.
|Beef tenderloin with chestnut and porcini ragout with truffles|
If you ask me to choose between hairy crab and white truffles, the latter wins hands down.
Honestly I have yet to appreciate all the tedious work that goes into deconstructing a small crab when shaved white truffles on a bed of risotto is utterly satisfying.
But not all is lost -- I'll try some hairy crabs next week and let you know if my conclusion has to be amended.
In the meantime viva tartufo bianco!