It's Thai Truffle season! This is a once a year event, when our version of the truffle is in season. The Thai truffle is a small round fruiting body of a fungus that grows underground. They are 1-2cms across, firm on the outside and soft on the inside. We call them popping mushrooms here, because they pop when you bite into them.
The taste and fragrance is very similar to a European truffle, a deep earthy flavour with very very strong mushroom notes. However the price is a lot cheaper: a little over $13 per kilo. This means you can use them as a vegetable. No delicate slices of truffle here, we can use them directly in place of mushrooms to turn a dish into a strong truffle dish!
Look for them towards the end of May. The name is 'hed pop'. Hed pronounced like 'head', meaning mushrooms, and 'pop' or rather 'po', the first two letters, the word that approximates the 'pop' sound in Thai.
They don't last long, the white one above is young, the black one is only a few days older, ready to pop out the spores. I'm going to be trying various ways to store them, but the Thai traditional way is to just eat them fresh, while in season, and wait patiently for the next season to come around.
They are heavily covered in dirt when you buy them, it would take forever to clean them individually. I prefer to take a few between your palms and roll them around under a running tap between your hands. You can feel when the rough dirt has been washed away.
My hands smell of truffle all day after I clean them.
Dried Whole - Just Say No!
After trying to dry them whole, I can tell you not to try! They smell like cat dung after even a days hot sun, it doesn't work. With some mushrooms, like shitake, drying them intensifies the smell and flavour, but with these the smell becomes unbearable.
Thai Truffle Oil - Just Say No Thanks!
I've also tried slicing them, a quick dry to remove excess water then storing them in oil. This time they don't decay to an dung smell, rather the opposite, I just can't smell them at all. It seems this fungus just doesn't want to be preserved.