When it comes to truffles, Group Executive Chef of Quince Eatery in Saigon, Julien Perraudin, doesn’t mince words.
In a recent Q&A, Julien gave us his highlights of the recent black winter truffle season.
B: What do you need to consider when coming up with a dish or menu that involves the use of black winter truffles?
JP: Flavour profile, depending on what truffle I’m cooking with. Winter black truffles are the best to cook with and heating them and cooking them up brings out their flavour, while Alba white truffles should be eaten raw to get the best flavour out of them.
When cooking with truffles, I always go back to comfort food, I don’t really like f**king around with it too much!
Fatty foods, cream, butter, in fact, anything dairy, is an easy and safe bet when cooking with truffle.
You need a subtle flavour combination so as not to overtake the delicate flavour that truffles bring – unlike truffle oil which is really powerful, fresh truffles are very delicate.
I also find that when using raw black truffle, grating them is better than slicing them.
If I really want to use truffle as a main antagonist more than a supporting role, I have to think about cost. It’s easy to use truffle with scallops or foie gras but it’s expensive and becomes less accessible.
Fortunately like caviar, truffles go amazingly well with humble ingredients, like eggs, pasta, rice and root vegetables.
B: How do Australian black winter truffles compare with others that you’ve used in your cooking?
JP: They are wonderful. As a French Australian chef (the French side supposedly being the most arrogant!) I have no problem admitting that Australian winter black truffles are as good as, if not better than, French Black winter truffles (both are Perigord truffles).
The Australians are way better when it comes to packaging and marketing.
When it comes to pure quality, it depends on the type of year.
Like wine, truffles are subject to the environment or “terroir kindness” – that is, if Mother Nature is generous to them – which will give us some amazingly pungent truffles.
I personally found that the 2018 Australian truffles were outstanding, while this year (2019) was really good, but not as good as last year.
B: What was the highlight of your trip to Australia with the other 12 Hands Dinner chefs from Saigon?
JP: Australia in general was the highlight. I hadn’t been back to Australia in three years, so I was really happy to go back to the country I call home.
Also, I’d never visited the Margaret River region before and it was truly beautiful. Amazing produce and wine, great restaurants, producers and, of course, the amazing scenery Australia is famous for.
And, spending one week with the other chefs brought us closer.
It was really fun. I brought back great memories and an extra five kilos!
B: Were you happy with what you presented at the 12 Hands Truffle Dinner recently?
JP: I wasn’t entirely happy with my dish, not because of the flavours as I’d done this dish several times at Quince, the flavour is great.
It was just the cut of meat that I had to work with – ribeye isn’t the best cut when doing this kind of dinner. It wasn’t the cut I’d intended to serve, but it is what it is and you have to roll with the punches.
In hindsight, it was too much food, there were too many courses, and it’s hard to keep the guests in place and entertained for that long at an event like that.
I believe most of the guests were pretty full by the time my dish arrived, and the fact that it was a 250g steak, didn’t help either!
The next one will be better.
B: How would you describe the experience of bumping shoulders with your peers in the same kitchen for an evening?
JP: It’s always great fun. We help each other, learn from each other, and have a bit of a banter with each other, too.
Spending a full week of nights and days with those guys and then being together in the kitchen cooking, was wonderful.
I love doing stuff like that.
Photos by Mike Palumbo. Follow him on Instagram @mikepalumbo_
Quince Eatery is at 37bis Ky Con Street, District 1, HCMC
For more information about Quince Eatery, go to https://www.facebook.com/quincesaigon/