A Chat With Alan Wong On Eryngii Mushrooms

A Chat With Alan Wong On Eryngii Mushrooms

The delectable fungus that has popped up on fine menus and specialty markets in Hawaii.

We at B on Hawaii have noticed a rather interesting item that has been finding it's way on to menu's throughout Hawaii as of late. The Eryngii mushroom has been sprouting up on more and more plates at fine eateries around town, and as far as we have discovered, it's a relatively new fungus among us.

A little research revealed that the Eryngii originates from Japan, as one might have guessed from it's name, where the meaty mushroom grows from the buried roots of hardwood trees, or from the stalks of wild carrots. This particular varietal made its way west to Europe, where it affixed itself to hardwood trees, and eventually in to risottos and rich Provincial stews. They can reach up to 7 inches or so, but are generally harvested at smaller sizes. We found a selection of 3 to 5 inch Eryngii's at Shirakaya in Ala Moana Shopping Center.

The first place I tried these meaty, buttery bits of earthen nectar was at a lesser-known sushi restaurant here on Oahu, called Izakaya Nonbei, which I was turned on to by our friend Chef Mavro. The chefs at Izakaya simply saut? the Eryngii's in a light oil (I am guessing peanut) and serve as is. Delightful. As I was thinking they tasted like a buttery lamb chop smothered with a sweet onion relish, I heard someone at a nearby table claim "they taste like Krispy Kreme doughnuts!" If that's not a range...

The next time I took notice was when I was composing August's "Food Guide" cover story for Honolulu Magazine, and I stopped in to Alan Wong's on King Street.

Wong prepared perhaps one of his most simply-plated dishes: two pieces of abalone, crossed with two pieces of Aulii Eryngii mushroom--grown by Hamakua Farmers on the Big Island. (NOTE: B on Hawaii will be interviewing Hamakua owner Bob Stanga in an upcoming issue--stay tuned.)

"They have a real high-tech operation over there, and these Aulii Eryngii's are perhaps their most amazing product," said Wong in a phone interview with B on Hawaii. "The texture reminds me of the abalone--but I am not trying to trick one's palate."

To insure the non-trickery, Wong created an oil fused with green onion that circles the items on the plate, which are then sprinkled with drops of katsuo soy (soy sauce mixed with dried bonito fish shavings, made locally).

"The green onion oil won out because it was so light, it didn't interfere with the abalone and Eryngii, yet was just enough to make the fish a little sweeter than it really is. It leaves all the earthy bitterness to the mushroom, which acts as a perfect balance to the fish," Wong concluded.

Find these mushrooms! Wong's is a fantastic place to start.

Hamakua Farmers have a real high-tech operation over there, and these Auli'i Eryngii's are perhaps their most amazing product," said Wong