Culinary Memoirs of A Biologist Who Loves Food

Posts tagged “mushroom

Quest to Find Indonesian Most Pricy Mushroom – Kulat Pelawan (Part I)

Mushroom is everyone’s favorite around the globe. Aside of its property as healthy food, which is because it has fiber as plant does, and it also has amino acids which normally found in animal tissues. This makes mushroom a good vegan substitute for meat.

Throughout the globe, mushroom comes from both cultivation (i.e. shiitake, oyster mushroom, maitake, enokitake, etc) and also mushroom hunting in the wild (i.e. black trumpet, truffle, chanterelle, morel, etc), and even mushroom hunting is one known tradition during fall season. Interestingly, the mushroom species gathered from the wild has very indulgent price, soaring up from USD 10 per kilos to USD 10,500 per kilos (truffle).

In Indonesia, wild edible mushroom is less known than the cultivated one. There are plenty of them are available in this country, such as:

  1. So mushroom (Javanese: So = Gnetum gnemon plant) or Scleroderma aurantium, which are edible when it is till young
  2. Bantilung mushroom, native on Kalimantan island
  3. Supa kelapa (Calvatia sp)
  4. Suung bulan/Moon mushroom (Gymnopus sp)
  5. Kulat Pelawan/Pelawan mushroom (Heimioporus sp)

This time, we will explore the most pricy and valuable of them all: Pelawan mushroom from Bangka island, which price could stand to USD 200 per kilos!


The shroom on its natural habitat (Source:


Pelawan trees (the ones with red barks) (Source:

What makes the facts about this mushroom even crazier is: It is rare because it grows only on Pelawan tree (Tristaniopsis merguensis Griff) that grown in Bangka (as people claimed so far) only during rainy season, then IT GROWS ONLY IN A TREE WHICH HAS BEEN STRUCK BY LIGHTNING!

Probably it sounds like a magic stuff comes from your fantasy book. But it is actually make sense if you see it from scientific side. Lightning is actually contributing on atmospheric nitrogen fixation (turning atmospheric nitrogen, N2, into NO or nitrous oxide compounds, which later carried to the ground by rain, forming NO3 or nitrate, a plant nutrient) which is 5-8% of total nitrogen fixation (Noxon, 1976; Anonymous, 2011). Other things, I heard it from my biology lecturer that plant growth would be amplified under strong electric induction, and this is the reason why the plants grow under the electric grid are bigger than normal – this should has some connection with the nutrient flows.

The Pelawan tree and the mushroom forms a mutual symbiosis relationship. The mushroom grows as an ectomycorrhizae in the tree roots (Tasuruni, 2012). As the mushroom gets its place to live, the tree obtains extra nutrients as the fungal hyphae extends the surface area of the root hair.

Okay, stop with the crazy science talk.

So I decided to order the dried mushroom online, IDR 200k (USD 20) for 100 g via Tokopedia (here). Surprisingly, my order arrived on the next day!


First impression upon unboxing: The mushroom has very strong smoky flavor. Then I soaked the mushroom for around 15 mins (some said that I supposed to soak it overnight) and then I cut the stalks.


The mushroom, soaked

Then I sliced the mushroom, and prepared some fettuccine.


The sliced shrooms, the mushroom water, and the pasta

Then I sauteed the mushroom with olive oil, add the mushroom water, some seasonings (salt and pepper only, since I wanted to try it naturally), and as the flavor is very strong, I added some dash of cream on it.


Fettuccine with Pelawan Mushroom

Even after I added some cream, the smoky flavor was still very strong. I wonder how should I cook it as pasta dish and as Indonesian Bangka original dish.

Today, I decided to give it to my friend, Daniel Vigone from MammaRosy Kemang Jakarta. I wonder how he’s gonna cook it.

And I think the story will continue, as I planned to go to Bangka to investigate the Pelawan forest in Namang village for myself this May or June.

(To be continued)


KULAT PELAWAN – Heimioporus sp

Class: Basidiomycota

Family: Boletaceae (in the same family as Porcini or Cep, Boletus edulis)

Distribution: Supposedly endemic on Bangka island, Pelawan Forest on Namang Village

Price: IDR 2 million/USD 200 per kilograms


Anonymous, 2011. The Nitrogen Cycle,, accessed April 9th, 2018

Noxon, J.F., 1976. Atmospheric nitrogen fixation by lightning. Geophysical Research Letters3(8), pp.463-465.

Tasuruni, D., 2012. Morphological and ITS rDNA Sequences Analysis of Pelawan Ectomycorrhizal Edible Mushroom and its Ectomycorrhizal Structure. Thesis. Institut Pertanian Bogor.

Viking Delicacies 101 – Viking Restaurant Harald

Uhm… everyone who watched Dreamworks How To Train Your Dragon movie franchise probably ever heard this:

“This is Berk. It snows nine months of the year, and hails the other three. Any food that grows here is tough and tasteless…” – Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III

No… no… I don’t mention about the dragons. I mentioned about the tribe on which Hiccup, the protagonist of this film affiliated with: The Viking. Go browse about them, so… yes… they occupied the northern area of Europe until Greenland… and if I correct, even until the coast of Newfoundland. It’s basically true, then… they were settling in very cold area. Sure, they had to be tough, or perished. Now my common question: So what did they eat??

Lucky for me in this town of Turku, there’s a restaurant that selling Viking originated cuisines! Viikinkiravintola Harald (FI: Viking Restaurant Harald). The name comes from King of Norway, Harald Fairhair who ruled during Viking period in 872-930 AD.

First time I ate here is on April 21st, 2016.

Harald (1)

Front view.

The front view of this restaurant (Turku branch), is probably won’t telling you much about anything on the inside, but once you stepped in… you’ll see the wonder inside.

Harald (2)

First floor – Where you stepped your feet in. I feel already like in a ship or a chieftain’s lodge.

Harald (3)

From the stairway to the seating area in the second floor. The feelings intensify…

Harald (4)

Harald (5)

Harald (6)

Dining area. You can feel the atmosphere of a Viking gathering hall or hunting lodge in this room.

So I was there for the first time for my lunch. I walked upstairs, a waitress warmly greet me and took me to my seat. She was on a medieval clothing. For lunch, we offered a price of 12.50 euros for three kind of set; I forgot what are those… but I choose the combination of mushroom soup, salmon steak, and for the drink… I bought extra drink called Miklagård’s Drink (in lunch set, we got free water).

VH - Cep and Chanterelles Soup (1)

Cep and Chanterelles soup of Northern Forest (lunch version)

First meal of my lunch is a mushroom soup served with archipelago bread. Although it mentioned only as mushroom soup, I do believe it is the small version of Cep and Chanterelles soup of Northern Forest which description written in the menu. Let’s say, norther area of Viking territory can be sea, icy regions, and forests. I believe in the northern cape of Norway or Finland at the time, it covered by forest. Of course, one of forest product is mushroom. Cep (Boletus edulis Bull.) and chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius Fr.) are both mycorrhizal fungi that grow in symbiotic relationship with trees in coniferous and deciduous forest. Cep is a perfect mushroom for soup or risotto. Chanterelle is a yellow trumpet-shaped mushroom, known by chefs for its fragrance that resembles apricot and mild peppery taste. Combined as creamy soup, the flavour is just wonderful. The archipelago bread here is made with rye and some malt. Unlike normal dry rye bread, this one is soft, emitting some sweet taste with a bit of bitterness and signature fragrance of rye. Compared to normal European dinner white bread and baguette, this rye bread’s unique taste give its own nice combination with the soup.

VH - Lunch - Salmon

Salmon steak for lunch.

The salmon steak served with creamy sauce, sweet root vegetables and fried potato cylinders. The salmon is really good and the sauce topped the tastes. To balance the palate, the sweetness of carrot… and turnip (I’m not really sure) makes your tongue happy. In the end, I love to wipe the remaining sauce with the potato. Yum!

Okay… what a perfect lunch!

But that’s not enough…

Later that afternoon, I stepped myself for early dinner. Table for one with some space left in my belly!

This time, I ordered one a la carte set course, it called ‘Voyage of Finnmark”. Finnmark is a county located in the northern most tip of Norway which connected directly to the northern area of Finland. Thing that sure, River Tana of this area is renown for the largest place in Europe to catch salmon! So… yeah! I expecting salmon as one of my dish! Anything else, based on the menu, since northern Finland area (Lapland) is one good place for reindeer, no wonder if that dish is included on the menu. And of course, any dishes brought from other Viking region might complement the dishes.

VH - HDO - Butter and Rye Bread

Hors d’oeuvres: Hard rye breads and melted butter

Before the starter, we got the small dish (hors d’oeuvres, or appetizer in French) consists of some cuts of hard rye bread, served with melted butter. The bread, I think is Finnish reikäleipä (FI: reikä – hole, leipä – bread). It’s a hard but thin rye bread. I ate that by cracking it into several pieces and dipping it into the butter. The taste is sour at start and there’s a hint of cardamon on the bread. It’s good… and it’s tough as Hiccup said (see the quote in the beginning). You want to make it sweet? Chew it a bit longer and let your enzyme at work!

VH - Salmon Soup From Archipelago (1)

Salmon soup from The Archipelago

VH - Salmon Soup From Archipelago (2)

As it almost emptied…

My appetizer is the salmon soup. The salmon has a hint of crispiness, I think the salmon is added last and it prepared by light seasoning and frying in oil. We know that salmon is one of commodities that you can found in Nordic region. Other thing inside is a mix of artichoke with Icelandic yoghurt called skyr as mousse and the combination add some fresh-sour taste to the vegetable broth. The basic broth itself has carrot, onion, fresh dill, and I think there is cardamon added. Placed between the salmon and the mousse, there is a piece of reikäleipä as crouton, but unlike white bread, it remains hard although it’s soaked. Interesting part is, although it’s hard, it absorbs the flavor from the soup. In the end, the soup itself is just perfect.

Skyr was brought from Norway to Iceland c.a. 1100 years ago, and gradually the tradition perished in Scandinavia but thrive in Iceland until now. Compared to conventional yoghurt, skyr is more solid because rennet is added following the fermentation with Lactobacillus and Streptococcus to separate the whey from the solid protein.

VH - Reindeer From Snowy Fells

Reindeer of Snowy Fells

As main course, I ate an awesomely tender and juicy reindeer tenderloin (cooked medium). Shortly, reindeer meat tastes gamey and the meat itself is very lean thus it’s good for consumption (I will explain it later in my next article). The steak is served with two sauces: cranberry and cut brandy sauce and creamy cep-chanterelle sauce (if you love mushroom sauce, like me, you’ll LOVE this one!). In addition, we have smooth and creamy potato cake (you can see it above in the top right, under the creamy thing) topped with crusty smoked paprika mousse. The creamy thing is a game mousse that top the reindeer salami (the salami is a bit hard with rich smokey meat flavor but with the mousse, it’s become really good!). For the veggies, there are fried kale, soy bean (edamame), bell pepper, rye grain, and one that caught my attention: a bit of sour and sweet Gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa L.) jam. All I can say: Wow!

VH - Pancake From Reval + Tar Ice Cream

Pancake from Reval with added Tar Ice Cream

To let you know, the pancake here in Europe is a real cake made thin on a pan… not the fluffy one served in most area of US. In my dessert here, the pancake… a bit crispy on the outside and soft inside, poured with raspberry and balsamico syrup. The taste is sweet and sour. Actually, there should only one ice cream in here, but I asked with addition of another ice cream with unique taste! The first one (bottom) is ice cream, flavored with Iceland moss, roasted sugar, and nuts. The second one (top) is tar flavored ice cream.

Icelandic moss is not actually a moss but it is a lichen, scientifically called Cetraria islandica (L.)Ach. It was used for folk medicine and said that it taste a bit bitter. However in this ice cream, the sugary flavor is more dominant so it didn’t feel so much in my taste buds. Tar is a result of destructive distillation of organic material. It’s commonly used in Finland from cooking ingredients to candy (which I don’t understand why), but it considered as panacea or capable to heal anything! It was made from wood by burning. When you eat it, it has a minty taste with a hint of smokey flavor. For the ice cream, I could taste it and it went well! Anyway, Reval is medieval name of town we recently know as Talinn, Estonia.

I was leaving the restaurant that night with my belly stuffed…

Then I went there again Friday 13th (wow) 2016. This time, I tried another a la carte set course called “Voyage of Dyflin”. Dyflin is what Dublin, Ireland, called during Viking period. So probably I expecting something that comes from western area of Europe.

VH - Njord's Starter Stone (3)

Njord’s Starter Stone

VH - Njord's Starter Stone (1)

Njord’s Starter Stone: Archipelago rye and malt bread with roach mousse, reindeer salami, fried duck heart, salad with rye grains

VH - Njord's Starter Stone (2)

Njord’s Starter Stone: Salad with brown rice, cold-smoked horse meat, blueberry and onion jam, cold-smoked Greenland halibut, tarred Baltic herring, and marinated vendace.

The starter is this various… meat and stuff. The name itself comes from Nordic god Njord (Njörðr), the father of deities Freyr and Freyja. So, what’s in his stone plate? We have the archipelago rye and malt bread topped with roach mousse. No… not that roach the insect from ordo Blattodea but roach the fish in Cyprinidae family, Rutilus rutilus L. I like the bread with the creamy mousse… so yummy! Then we have reindeer salami, cold-smoked and sliced… horse meat (it’s a bit tougher than smoked beef even it’s thinner here, but it’s good), strangely-but-really-good blueberry and onion jam, cold smoked halibut (it tastes like smoked white fish, but the meat has a bite), tarred (okay… more tar) Baltic herring, and (I think it also marinated by tar) marinated vendace. It’s funny if you imagine a minty tar flavor combined with fish, but it’s good… no kidding! Ah, there are also fried duck heart (this is my first time eating it, and somehow the texture and flavor is close to beef), and salad with rye grains in it.

Fish from Baltic sea like herring is tend to be more plain in flavor than fishes from other seas or ocean, because Baltic see is known for its close-to-fresh water salinity level. Well… that’s for your info, basically I already wrote so much facts here, hehe.

VH - The Horseman's Tenderloin (1)

The Horseman’s Tenderloin (side view)

VH - The Horseman's Tenderloin (2)

…from another view, you can see the potato cake now

For the main course, I wouldn’t say anything… it’s just stunning! The beef tenderloin is so tender and juicy as it cooked medium, very nice to be eaten with the sweet (a bit sour) cranberry and cut brandy sauce. The creamy and cheesy flavor of potato cake (baked with paprika mousse on top, making it crusty) is really delicious. The veggies, aragula, and root vegetables neutralized your palate. Oh… there is also a thin slice of a bit salty and crusty Maasdam cheese, a Swiss-style Dutch cheese make of cow milk, aged for 4 weeks.

VH - Frigga's Chocolate Cake

Frigga’s Chocolate Cake

To close my dinner that day, we have this double chocolate cake (my favorite!) with salty liquorice (another odd “sweets” combination from Finland) mixed in the top layer of white chocolate (it balances the sweetness of the milk chocolate layer below, and intensify the whole flavors in your taste buds). The cake tastes like heaven for me! There is also raw chocolate ice cream with blackberry jam and star anise-rhubarb sauce (I thought it was cloudberry sauce, until I tastes it further). Personal preference: The berry jam is nice with the ice cream, the sauce goes well with the cake and the sugar.

Anyway, the name Frigga… well, if you notice the Nordic mythology (or watched/read Thor comic), Frigga/Frigg is Odin’s wife, Thor’s mother.

VH - Miklagard's Drink

Miklagård’s Drink

In case you wondering, there are of course drinks available here. This mocktail for example. Miklagård’s Drink is a mix of blueberry syrup, orange juice, and soda water.

Miklagård or Miklagarðr (Old Norse: mikll – big, garðr – city) is an old name of Istanbul, Turkey, during Medieval Viking era.

VH - Water Jar

Water jar

If you don’t want to drink anything fancy, you can ask for cold water in a pitcher for 1 euro.

In the nutshell, it’s a wonderful experience to dine in there. It feels like you just come back in time and try the Viking-medieval period delicacy here and this experience, although the price for you to pay (for the food) is considered high, the experience itself is memorable and priceless. I’d like to come back here again for the atmosphere, and of course the food… especially the meat and salmon! 😉

PS: That afternoon (both), I came back to my apartment listening to “This is Berk” and “Flying With Mother” by John Powell to intensify the feels (that I got when I watch “How To Train Your Dragon”). And I feel like I was in Viking island at the moment… :p


Branch: Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Kuopio, Lahti, Tampere, Turku, Oulu

Turku Address: Aurakatu 3, 20100 Turku. Phone: +358 44 766 8204.

Price Range:

Food: EUR 6.20 – 67.60

Beverage: EUR 1.00 – 64.00

Ordered Courses:

Lunch set: EUR 12.50

Set – Voyage of Finnmark: EUR 52.30

Set – Voyage of Dyflin: EUR 49.90

Tar Ice Cream: EUR 3.50

Water: EUR 1.00

Opening Hours (Turku):

Monday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Tuesday – Thursday: 12:00 pm – 12:00 am

Friday – Saturday: 12:00 pm – 01:00 am

Sunday: 03:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Website: Viikinkiravintola Harald (available in English version)

TripAdvisor (Turku): Viikinkiravintola Harald

Foursquare (Turku): Viikinkiravintola Harald

Note: Eat the reindeer and beef here, for steak, ask for medium cooked. Seat in the middle room for brighter ambience, or else ask the waitress.


The Pizza That Fights Back – Pizza Berlusconi, Kotipizza, Finland

First of all, thank you @KotiPizza for the nicest pizza I’ve ever eat in Finland, my first experience to eat reindeer meat (although it’s chunk sized) and chanterelle mushroom, and after I read the history, I salute the pizza you made here in Finland! 🙂

Not much people know about Finnish food. Even myself, before I know my professor in Åbo Akademi University and watch some TV cooking show about Nordic food, I have completely no idea about food in Finland. In my thought, it’s… fish, something nature and gamey, bread and cheese. I remembered in my childhood that I read a magazine that said Finns have black bread and cheese. My curiosity lasts long enough until I discovered it’s a rye bread and some kind of smoked cheese.

I read this story from Wikipedia about Finnish Cuisine and KotiPizza. Years ago, two leaders of two countries renowned for their excellences in culinary art, French president Jacques Chirac and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi gave negative critiques to Finnish cuisine.

“I’ve been to Finland and I had to endure the Finnish diet so I am in a position to make a comparison.” “The Finns don’t even know what Parma ham is.” – Silvio Berlusconi

“After Finland, [Britain is] the country with the worst food.” – Jacques Chirac

These statements however, were countered by some international food reporter:

“Chirac and Berlusconi are wrong! Finnish cuisine is much more international than I expected. I have eaten very good food in wonderful restaurants, visited market places and enjoyed in good cafeterias. Cheese is very good in Finland. I also love Finnish cloudberry and smoked fish.” (Ute Junker, Australian Financial Review MagazineSydneyAustralia)

“Food in Finnish restaurants is extremely good. Especially I love Finnish salmon, mushroom soup and desserts. I have also got very good Finnish wines. The worldwide reputation of Finnish cuisine isn’t very good – but it should be!” (Liliane Delwasse, Le FigaroParis, France)

“I have eaten only good food in Finland. Food in Finland is very fresh. Bread, berries, mushrooms and desserts are very delicious. Finnish berries (especially cloudberry), salmon, cheeses and reindeer should be available in London, too.” (April Hutchinson, Abta MagazineLondon, England).

Personally saying, I have to agree. Finnish cuisines are fresh and true (combinations of the foods here, even it has low on spices… are all delicious for me!). Although as someone who comes from Indonesia who accustomed to spicy and foods with stronger flavors, I really love to eat salmon, breads, and some other meals in here!

In 2008, Kotipizza from Finland won America’s Plate International pizza contest in New York, while their competitor, an Italian-American pizza stood in second place. Outstandingly, they name their award-winning smoked reindeer pizza Berlusconi as payback to the Italian prime minister.

Okay… that’s the story. What is it look like? Awesome news, I bought it in my second week of my stay in Turku!

FI - KP - Berlusconi

Berlusconi pizza… damn, I have to eat it while fresh next time. Waiting for bus for more than 20 minutes in the weekend under 2ºC of outside temperature is a bad idea.

FI - KP - Berlusconi Zoom (1)

The slice…

FI - KP - Berlusconi Zoom (2)

Zoomed for reasons… look at those stuffs!

The pizza is thin crusted pizza (of course unlike the American pan pizza with thick crust), with tomato pizza sauce and mozzarella. For crust, they use rye fibre crust. For the topping, they use chunks of smoked reindeer, marinated chanterelle mushroom, red onion, and some sprinkles of dried oregano. Once you open the cardboard lid, the smell of smoked reindeer and onion say hello to you. The flavor itself is absolutely wonderful! For those who never tried the marinated chanterelles, it tastes like normal button mushroom but in shape close to oyster mushroom (the fresh one is claimed to has apricot aroma). Have to say that I agree with my friend, this is a Holy Grail of pizza!

Can’t wait to taste more of it! Kiitos Kotipizza!


Berlusconi Pizza – EUR 10.90

AW’s Rating: √√√√√ (full score, no complain!)


For address, it’s spread around Finland. You can found one in both Turku or Helsinki. I bought this one in:

Uudenmankatu 19, 20700 Turku. Ph: +358 2 251 5660

Opening hours:

Restaurant: 12:00 PM – 22:00 PM

Home delivery: 12:00 PM – 21:30 PM (minimum order: EUR 10.00)

Foursquare: Kotipizza

TripAdvisor: Kotipizza