Bao before Porcini

Warmer weather and the end of winter rains means porcini season for foragers in the Western Cape is finished. Good rains in the east of the country, in KZN have kicked off though. We know one local chef who’s going to be really happy to hear we’ve got fresh porcini in stock again.

Chef-patron of Franschhoek’s stunning new Oku Eatery, Ryan Shell, is a forager of note. Whenever he gets a chance, he’ll disappear onto a farm or into a bit of forest on the mountain slopes surrounding the village hunting wild ingredients. There’s plenty of fresh food to be harvested if you know what you’re doing, and foraging adds texture and variety to all his menus.

The real prize to be found out beneath the oaks is the porcini mushroom, or boletus edulis. The Cape Peninsula’s damp weather brings them up in winter, but it’s too hot and dry by late September. Just as they disappear out in Ryan’s range though, the wet weather hits the oak pine plantations of south western KwaZulu–Natal.

Teams of foragers there usually start finding porcini in October, depending on rain. We’ve developed an excellent, long-standing relationship with one of the main harvesters of these precious ceps and distribute to local chefs for their summer menus.

A steady supply from Wild Peacock means chef Ryan can keep some of his favourite porcini-based dishes on Oku’s menu. He usually deals with one of the former fine dining chefs on our sales team, Maritz Jacobs, to secure his supply. With an intimate knowledge of running top kitchens, Maritz keeps chefs informed on seasonal arrivals and ensures a cost-effective supply and availability of ingredients. Basically, Maritz speaks ‘chef’. Sitting down with him and Ryan to talk about the size and quality of this season’s porcini is an enlightening experience. According to Ryan, KZN porcini tend to be a little lighter in colour than their Western Cape cousins, but have the same rich, nutty, earthy flavour. They agreed it’s probably a ‘terroir thing’.

The two once worked together in an award-winning local kitchen, so the conversation quickly got technical when the topic turned to Ryan’s latest menu creation. They disappeared into the kitchen to get some porcini cooking as Ryan created his insanely popular porcini bao to share with us.

Porcini Bao Buns

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Servings 4 buns

Ingredients
  

Filling ingredients

  • 2 large porcinis
  • 100 ml Canola oil
  • 50 g butter
  • 10 g sesame oil
  • 30 g Ketchup manis (indo soy)

Assembly ingredients

  • 4 bao buns
  • Asian cucumber pickle
  • Kewpie mayo
  • sliced radish
  • sesame seeds
  • picked coriander

Instructions
 

Method

  • Remove the heads from the stalks of the porcini.
  • Peel the stalks.
  • Slice the head and the stalk into four large slices.
  • Combine the oil and the soy.
  • Heat a small pan until “blue hot”.
  • Add oil and then butter, once the butter is foaming add the porcini and fry till a dark caramel colour.
  • Remove from pan and place into a small tray.
  • Pour over soy and sesame oil mixture.

Assembly

  • Place the buns in a steamer and steam for 8 minutes.
  • Remove from steamer and pipe in Kewpie mayonnaise.
  • Add about 4 slices of pickled cucumber.
  • Share the porcini mixture evenly between the 4 bao.
  • Garnish with radishes, coriander and sesame seeds to taste.

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