Bitter Bolete – a Specialty Food of Phú Quốc
All humid forests celebrated plenty of new lives after the rainy season, anywhere from tropical to temperate zones. Fruits are ripening on trees, and another vibrant world is awakening beneath layers of dead leaves. Mushrooms of various varieties have awoken from their long slumber all around the trees.
Shitake and termite mushrooms are common edible wild mushrooms in
Việt Nam, but bitter bolete mushroom (Tylopilus felleus), also known as “Nấm tram” in Việtnamese, is a unique delicacy in Phú Quốc island and mushroom enthusiasts are prized for their delightful taste and consider it to be the best in the country.
Boletes have fleshy caps with a puffy underside composed of sponge-like pores. They may also have a bulbous stem with a slight surface texture described as netting or reticulating. They come in various colours but the edible boletes tend to be buff or tan in colour. If there is any red and orange colouring on the mushroom, including the stem, pores, or cap, avoid it as this can be a sign of a toxic bolete.
It has a distinct bitter flavour that is followed by a delectable moderate sweetness. Bitter boletes can be found in Phú Quốc during the rainy season, from April to September, however, they have a limited life span and perish after 3-5 days. As a result, mushroom hunters must be swift and experienced to get their hands on these valuable delicacies. They commonly form 5 to 10-unit clusters. The brown-purple cap of this fungus mixes in nicely with the fallen leaves, making it difficult to identify.
Before preparing bitter bolete, it must be thoroughly cleaned and processed (peeling, washing, soaking in salt water to reduce the bitterness). The “Nấm tram” distinct sharpness pairs well with seafood porridge, stir-fried seafood, steamed shellfish with eggs and minced pork, or even in clear soup with sweet potato leaves and shrimps.
During the off-season, bitter bolete is only available dried or frozen. The dehydrated mushroom, in particular, pairs well with abalones and sea cucumbers, or it can simply be used to season a clear broth.
Take particular notice! Mushroom poisoning is common in Việt Nam, particularly in remote and hilly locations where locals rely usually on vegetables from the forest.
During the rainy season, mushrooms are plentiful but don’t risk your life by eating unidentified fungi. Mushroom poisoning has no antidote!