Saturday, 3 November 2012

Picture of the Day: White Truffles

Some aborio rice absorbs the pungent smell of the white truffles
Ah November... one of my favourite times of the year for food.

Some love this month because it's hairy crab season, where the small crustaceans are harvested from Yangcheng Lake near Shanghai.

They are carefully steamed and then diners are armed with a series of small tools with which to extract the tiny meat from the legs and claws.

But most importantly they are prized for their roe, particularly the female crabs.

Eating these crustaceans is an art form, as there are some hair crab fans who can take it apart so neatly that it can practically be put back together again after it's been completely stripped of its meat.

For me eating one crab is a tedious exercise and requires a lot of patience. Warm aged yellow wine seasoned with a salted plum makes the experience even better.

But after getting out all the meat, my attention span for the meal has been spent and don't need to eat another one again until next year.

However when it comes to white truffles, I'm pretty much in culinary heaven.

These ugly brown fungus are the most pungent things around at this time of year, though of course durian would win hands down in a sensory fight.

Nevertheless just a few shavings of white truffles make the simplest fried egg, risotto or spaghetti out of this world.

Of course you need the big bucks to be able to afford more than just one slice of this prized truffle, the best of which come from Alba in Italy's Piedmont region.

There are so many stories surrounding the white truffles, how dogs and pigs are trained to sniff them out, but better watch the latter closely because porcine have a fondness for truffles too and could eat your stash.

And then there are tales of espionage and even violence in protecting one's turf where you've spotted white truffles growing and don't want others to know where it is.

Being rarer than black truffles, white ones command even higher prices. This year the weather conditions were not so good (too hot and not enough rain) so the yield this season is smaller.

However I'm hearing reports that the truffles are better than last year, though not as good as three years ago and are priced at as much as $350 an ounce.

So when I got a chance to check out the white truffles on hand at Pierre in the Mandarin Oriental, I took a deep whiff from them sitting on top of some aborio rice and sighed.

Hopefully I'll get to eat some soon and then dream of having them again next year.


  1. Re hairy crabs: er... isn't it the male crabs and their "roe" that's prized more than the female ones?

    As for truffles: They just don't do much for me! And as shocking as it may seem to some, I actually prefer the smell of durians to them -- though it's true that I do draw the line re the smell of durians in air-conditioned enclosed space! ;b

  2. Some have a preference for male crabs, others female... I haven't discerned the difference yet, maybe because I only have one crab a year, if that!