February 7, 2023
HANOI – By Lê Hương
Phú Quốc Island is not only famous for fresh seafood, its local cuisine also has various unique delicacies from nấm tràm (Tylopilus Felleus), a kind of mushroom that grows in cajuput or eucalypt forests.
The mushroom can also be found in central Việt Nam, especially in Thừa Thiên Huế, Quảng Trị and Quảng Bình provinces.
According to Đinh Bá Lộc, a local farmer, this kind of mushroom lasts for about a month. It is dark brown on the outside and smooth white inside.
“It grows on hill sides or along streams, or in rotten leaves in cajuput or eucalypt forests,” he said. “The mushroom appears very quickly after the first rains in autumn. It spreads all over the forest within a month and withers.”
Hence, locals always come to the forests to pick up the mushroom in fourth and seventh lunar months.
Leaves and tree bark fall on the ground and gradually become rotten, which is a favourable condition for mushrooms to appear, he explained.
“Fungus spores nurtured in the decayed leaves and bark wait for the first rains to develop into small mushrooms, which grow and last only a few days,” he said.
The mushroom can have a mysterious purple, light yellow, brown or milky white colour.
Lộc said the mushrooms taste a little bitter but it has good characteristics.
Various scientific documents have mentioned that this kind of mushroom has many vitamins of the B group (like B1, B2, B3), which is good for the neural system.
“When you use this kind of mushroom, your body can absorb vitamin D, protein, iron and fibres,” noted nutritionist Phạm Văn Hoan.
“Phú Quốc cajuput mushroom has anti-oxidant selenium; ergothioneine, which boosts digestion and other antibacterial, anti-fungus and cancer prevention substances,” he said.
The mushroom is especially good for expecting mothers and elders, he said.
Nguyễn Văn Trung, who runs Tina Nguyễn Restaurant in the south of Phú Quốc Island, said the mushroom can be used to make various significant delicacies of the pearl island.
In his menu, soup from the mushroom with egg, pork or seafood, and mushroom porridge, are the highlights.
Soup from mushroom
This is one of the most colourful dishes on the island and contains the brown colour of mushrooms and minced pork balls; the red and white colours of seafood; the yellow colour of eggs; the green colour of vegetables, herbs; the red colour of fresh chili and the black colour of ground pepper.
Green onion should be fried first, then water should be added and boiled.
Then, pork balls are added in to be cooked well. In the meantime, another saucepan is heated to fry chopped garlic and then mushroom, and adding spices to enhance the taste.
Seafood such as shrimp and squid should be stirred in fat, then some slices of red chili are added.
The mushroom and seafood are then put into the broth with pork balls. When the broth gets boiled, add some egg and stir well. Vegetables such as sweet potato leaves should be added later.
The soup should be served hot with some herbs, minced pepper and some slices of fresh chili.
Porridge with Phú Quốc cajuput mushroom has a fatty taste and a little bit bitter, which is said to be good for people with a headache, tiredness and flu.
Ingredients include fresh shrimp, pork belly, beef, fish sauce, and spices.
Trung reminds people to cut the mushroom into thin slices before adding it into the porridge.
Trung said that as the mushroom is so nutritious, visitors should not eat too much at once to avoid indigestion.
“The mushroom should be cooked well to ensure safety for our stomach,” he noted. “The mushroom should not be stirred in too much oil to avoid greasiness as the mushroom itself contains much protein already.”
Trung also stressed that the mushroom is cool so one should avoid eating it with ice.
“The mushroom contains much iron, you should not cook it in an aluminum saucepan,” he said. VNS