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Rare as diamonds, worth its weight in gold

By CJ Henderson | China Daily | Updated: 2012-12-09 10:41
Rare as diamonds, worth its weight in gold

White truffle and vanilla bean ice cream at Barolo Italian restaurant. [Photo by Fan Zhen / For China Daily]

"My favorite thing about cooking with white truffles is the fragrance, the delicateness and of course, freshness," says Gianluca Visani, head chef of Barolo Italian restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Beijing, and his new winter menu reflects his passion for this strange and rare delicacy.

White truffles differ from black truffles in that they cannot be cultivated. White truffles grow only in special areas, and are snuffled out from underground by pigs and dogs that are specially bred for that purpose. The knobby fungus is then shaved, ground, or peeled on top of plates and made into the sauces that grace the nest tables.

They are so expensive that eating white truffles is like eating gold, but much tastier.

Related: Truffles in braised pork

At Barolo, the truffle feast begins with a veal carpaccio that is a show-stopper. Beautiful thin slices of deliciously tender veal is surrounded by slightly acidic and very fresh arugula, and topped with shavings of white truffle - a flavor combination that was just perfect.

Rare as diamonds, worth its weight in gold

The poached egg, the second half of the entree, is a mouthful of sunshine with exquisite, oozing golden yolk combined with the warm and earthy flavor of the truffles.

Veal tortellini with a buttery truffle sauce felt like a match made in heaven and for the real truffle enthusiast, you cannot go past the risotto: truffle on truffle on truffle mixed with rice.

But for an unusual taste of truffle, nothing beats the white truffle and vanilla bean ice cream. After demolishing every last spoonful, we asked Chef Visani his secret to creating such an amazing taste explosion.

"I infuse quite a big quantity of small pieces of white truffle in milk while I'm doing the vanilla sauce," he says.

"Then I prepare normal vanilla sauce and I use an ice-cream machine to make the ice cream."

The thing about white truffles is you have to treat them delicately. Unlike black truffles they can't be used in heavy sauces. For the white, it is all about gentle flavors that will let the truffles shine.

Chef Visani says his favorite ingredients to pair with white truffles are carpaccio, tagliolini veal jus, risotto, and steamed fish because "white truffle has a strong 'garlic earthy flavor', a natural woodsy bush flavor".

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