October is the height of the white truffle season. It is the peak time for prices and competition among buyers and finders in Italy. Hunting dogs are on the prowl looking for this prized delicacy. But serious foodies around the world are on the hunt for the best truffle dishes this season. They know that white truffles are best eaten, in the moment of its full flavour. Consuming it within three days after being dug up is ideal.
Catering to the discriminating taste of lovers of truffles, select restaurants in Asia celebrate this imported seasonal delicacy with a special truffle menu. The white truffle’s intense flavour is usually added to eggs, pasta, potatoes and risottos.
In Hong Kong, Italian chefs go beyond using the prized white truffle in these traditional dishes. Instead they innovate with clever new truffle inspired dishes. Michelin-Star Executive Chef Philippe Orrico of St. George Hullett House created nine white truffle dishes ranging from Traditional to Modern. His favourite creation is the Modern 63° eggs with hot Parmesan foam and burnt flour shortbread. Sixty-three degrees is the perfect temperature for cooking an egg, as discovered by French physical chemist Herve This. Chef Orrico employs this difficult method, slowly poaching the free-range eggs, serving this delicate dish with fresh Truffle shavings.
Modern 63° eggs with hot Parmesan foam and burnt flour shortbread at St. George Hullett House
Domani Ristoranti serves a White Truffle Degustazione Menu, with the option for seven course at HK$980 or five courses at HK$780. As they do in Italy, the diner is presented the white truffle at their table, allowing them to shave as much as they want on their dishes. The truffle is weighed before and after shaving, charging per gram depending on the current market price of White Truffles. Stefano Bassanese, Domani’s General Manger explains, “Letting the diner shave and savor the aroma of white truffles is very much a part of the enjoyable experience of eating white truffles.” The restaurant changes their Truffle Menu weekly, but always include both traditional and modern interpretations of Italian cuisine.
Domani’s Granita di “Cervaro della Sala”, Crema Bianca al Tartufo e Uova d’Anantra al Miele
Bassanese tells me when white truffles were abundant in many decades ago, Italian nonnas made cakes and other dense desserts with them. Italian chefs today employ modern techniques to create dishes complementing white truffles. Domani’s Granita di “Cervaro della Sala”, Crema Bianca al Tartufo e Uova d’Anantra al Miele, is a stunning combination of crunchy fruity wine ice flakes paired with a velvety truffle cream made even richer by duck eggs.
While the Italians deeply appreciate the white truffle, diners are just slowly learning to enjoy it. The Italian restaurateur reveals, “The Chinese often ask me what the truffle is good for, expecting a medicinal or health benefit connected to this prized delicacy. Italians don’t really seek a medicinal benefit, merely good taste and enjoyment of food.”
So this season, take the cue from the Italians, shave, sniff, and savor the white truffles.
© Photo of Domani Granita: Maida Pineda. Text: Maida Pineda
Photo of white Truffle courtesy of St. George Hullett House
Posted on 20 October 2010