18 November 2018
Chanterelle is one of the four fungi featured in fine western dining. It is known for its rarity and difficulty in preserving its unique umami. Photo: Wikimedia
Chanterelle is one of the four fungi featured in fine western dining. It is known for its rarity and difficulty in preserving its unique umami. Photo: Wikimedia

Delicate wild chanterelle mushrooms from Austria

Staring at a big box of chanterelles freshly hand-carried by my friend from a trip to Austria, I could not help but ask myself what to do with them.

Do they go with heavy cream or white wine?

This carton of chanterelles was bought in the farmers’ market right before he took a flight from Vienna, and it landed on my doorstep as soon as my friend arrived.

Time is the arch-enemy of mushrooms as they are far too fragile, which means they start to wilt after just one or two days. If the changes in weather or temperature are too dramatic, they would become shrivelled and lose water in one day.

While it is not quite a concern for most mushrooms as they would be still edible even if they become old or shineless, it would be a tragedy to lose the unique taste and fragrance of chanterelles.

They are rare and appear in some deep forests in Central Europe from mid-July till the end of August, and the freshness of the mushrooms vanishes quicker than most of the other species.

This batch of mushrooms was large and was kept in perfect funnel shape in spite of the long travel.

Although I used to tear up the fungi before cooking, I preferred to present them in their own original form this time.

“Chicken oil mushrooms” and “butter mushrooms” are the two common Chinese names for chanterelles. They are named after the rich egg-yellow color, which is probably from natural logs, and the description has nothing to do with their taste.

To cook chanterelles, the Europeans would quick-fry them with butter plus a pinch of salt to squeeze out its juice.

Sometimes, heavy cream or fried bacon dices would be added.

Or it could go with Italian pasta. First, boil the pasta well. Stir-fry some chanterelles with butter and cook it with heavy cream. Pour the mixture over the cooked pasta and the dish would be ready to serve.

Alternatively, white wine is used instead of heavy cream to get the fragrance and flavours of chanterelles out. Spare the expensive bottles as any cheap white wine would do the job. Adding fried onion dices would be awesome.

My friend also gave me a bottle of goose oil from Hungary, prompting me to compare it against butter. However, I was too caught up that I eventually forgot about the cooking experiment.

A kilogram of chanterelles was just about right to make into two dishes for a family of three.

While I was enjoying my chanterelle pasta, another friend of mine sent me a photo of risotto.

Each rice grain apparently had soaked up the broth of the mushrooms. That was so tempting, but I decided long ago that I would stir-fry them with white wine and onions.

Alright, I am going to try chanterelle risotto next year.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 9

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Wild chanterelle mushrooms can only be harvested during summer in forests in Central Europe and must be consumed instantly before it loses its aroma and tenderness. Photos: HKEJ

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