One Big Truffle Dinner

It is not everyday that you eat white truffles. It is also not an everyday occurrence for a chef to prepare a meal with a 900-gram truffle.  The large truffle is the top prize at the 12th World White Truffle Of Alba Auction.  The owner of this culinary delicacy is Jeannie Cho Lee and her friends who pooled together $105,000 Euros.  The group shelled out a hefty sum to support the auction beneficiary, Mother’s Choice Charity for mother and babies in HK.  

Umberto Bombana, chef of 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana was tasked with cooking this truffle.  Known as Hong Kong’s Truffle King, he is no stranger to working with large truffles.  In 2006, he was responsible for preparing a property tycoon’s 1.5 Kilogram truffle.  Size does matter, Bombana explains: “They say when the size is bigger, it is expensive for a few reasons. First, it is very unique. It is very difficult to find. Second, bigger truffles allow the moisture to stay inside. When the moisture stays inside, the flavour stays inside.”

The Preparation

Since the truffle arrived from Italy last Tuesday, only Chef Bombana has handled this precious fungus. It requires meticulous care.  He keeps the prized truffle in the refrigerator at 2 degrees Celsius, in a dry air-tight plastic container. The truffles lay on towel, which he replaces with a fresh one every day.  Ideally, they are best consumed a few days after harvest.



Prior to serving the truffle, the Italian chef spends much time using a dry brush to remove the soil and dirt from the truffle.  Using a knife, he also cleans the deep crevices of the truffle, making sure no soil is left.  Watching him clean the truffle, he points to the soil as he brushes it off, “Even if this is expensive, you cannot eat it anyway. Dirt is dirt.” Bombano explains, “Like any type of mushroom. The fresher it is, the better it is.” Admiring 900-gram, the now immaculately clean truffle in his hands, he sighs: “It is perfectly ripe now.”

Once the truffles are thoroughly cleaned, he carefully puts each piece on a silver tray and covers it.  He keeps it refrigerated until the guests arrive.   

An 8-course Truffle Menu

The chef selected a traditional menu with a modern twist, for the eight-course dinner last Sunday.  To enhance its intense flavour, truffles are usually served with eggs, pasta, potatoes, cheeses, chestnuts, and risotto.  Naturally, Bombana used these ingredients in his menu.  His food philosophy when it comes to serving truffles:  “To get all the aroma and pleasure, the dish has to be very simple, so you have the full experience of the truffle.  If you put wine reduction, all these kind of things, you kill the flavour.”

He starts with a refreshing Autumn Salad, generously showered with white truffle shavings.  His creative flair shines with the Langoustine Cassoulet on “ratte” potato, chanterelle mushrooms, sea urchin, parsley foam, topped with white truffles.  His signature truffle dish is the Taiyouren Egg in Ravoilo, an original recipe he has been making for two decades now.  “This Taiyouren eggs are special, very sweet yolks I get from Japan.  We put mascarpone cheese, yolks, butter and truffle in this ravioli.” For the next two courses, he shifts gears to  simple Italian classics: Homemade Tagliolini with butter, Parmesan, and white truffles and Porcini Risotto with white truffles.  The meat dish of the evening is the Roast Fassone Veal Tenderloin from Piedmont on braised savoy cabbage, Iberico ham, truffle mashed potato and white truffles.  Bombana points out that white meats work best with truffles.  Even his cheese selection comes from Piedmont, where this 900-gram coveted truffle came from.  For the finale, a truffle and mascarpone, ice cream, with honey and chestnut nougat was served.   

Autumn Salad

Langoustine Cassoulet before it was topped truffles

Choosing a vino to go with truffles would depend on the dish. But Chef Bombana’s recommends pairing it with wine from the same region as the truffle, “Traditionally, what works beautifully is a Nebbiolo. It is intense, powerful and dry.”

The Verdict

For this special dinner, Jeannie and her friends brought their own bottles of wine to be paired with their truffle dinner. The wine master describes the chef’s signature Raviolo as “heavenly, perfect with 85 Remy Latriciere Chambertin.” Jeannie’s tweet gushed over how beautifully the Homemade Tagliolini paired with 95 Hudelot-Noellat Romanee St Vivant and the Porcini risotto with truffle matched the 85 Bricco Rocche Barolo. “The veal with Iberico ham & truffle mashed potato paired with 85 Lafleur was gorgeous.” But the biggest compliment was when the wine writer and author candidly admitted on Twitter how she was running out of words to describe this truly memorable feast.

Wines paired with this memorable Truffle Feast

Jeannie and her friends are not the only ones gushing over truffles these days. The King of Truffles reveals a growing appreciation for the Piedmont fungi in Asia. He sells about a kilo of truffles every day. He often gets many phone calls too from Asian chefs asking how to cook this seasonal delicacy.

Bombana is all smiles, “It is a really a good season this year.  We have a good harvest this year.” He enjoys imparting the decadence of eating truffles with Asians, “It is fascinating.  When they try the truffle, they have an experience. They are very happy, almost shocked to discover such an intense flavour in front of them.  It is a beautiful experience. They really love it.”

Text by Maida Pineda. Photos by Maha Shah and Maida Pineda

Posted on 23 November 2010