They’ve been described as diamonds of the dirt, little treasures, even aphrodisiacs.
Not bad for a fungus.
Of course, I’m talking about black winter truffles.
Unless you’ve been living like a truffle – under the ground in the dark – you will have noticed that Saigon at this time of year for the past couple of years has suddenly been gripped by the funk of truffle-mania.
At least around restaurants anyway.
Anyone with a remote interest in dining out will know that the appearance of Western Australian black winter truffles on menus from Anan to Quince to NEX and every other Saigon restaurant worth its (truffle) salt, is as certain as one of those funky little black subterranean-dwelling gems being detected by a trained Labrador from 20 metres.
Fortunately, we don’t need truffle sniffer dogs in Saigon to detect them at our favourite restaurants, all thanks to importer to Vietnam, Le Truffle, who organises dinners like the recent 12 Hands Truffle & Wine Dinner at The Workshop to showcase the unique aroma, flavour and texture of these mysterious tasting motley nuggets from Australia that can cost upwards of US$250 per 100g depending on quality and season.
Behind Le Truffle is Cass Gardner, who has roots (pun intended) in both Vietnam and Australia.
This year Cass chaperoned a handful of Saigon’s leading and most-innovative chefs to the Western Australian town of Manjimup, Australia’s truffle ground zero, where they toured the region’s most prolific and renown truffieres (it’s a word).
It turns out that Australia is one of just three countries in the world (the others are France and Spain) that produces black winter Perigord truffles and is home to The Truffle & Wine Co., the largest single producing truffle farm in the Southern Hemisphere, sending the hounds in to dig up somewhere between 5,000kg to 6,000kg per year.