Benefits of Termite Mushroom in Rubber Plantations of Binh Phuoc

Termite mushroom grows in clusters along plots of rubber trees in Hon Quan district of Binh Phuoc province. Locals harvest this delicious agaric fungus to prepare nutritious, aromatic dishes like termite mushroom with chicken soup and pepper brined termite mushroom.

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After a bout of early summer rain, the weather in Binh Phuoc, a province in the southeast, turns hot and muggy – the perfect environment for mushrooms to thrive. It is unknown when exactly rubber growers in Hon Quan district of Binh Phuoc began their search for termite mushroom during the wet season, but it is clear that this unique fungus is highly valued by the local community.

Dong Hao, also known as Tran Van Hien, is a talented individual born in 1997 hailing from Binh Phuoc province. He is the proud owner and creator of the popular YouTube channel, Am thuc Dong Hao. Recently, he shared a captivating video where he embarked on a journey to forage for termite mushrooms and skillfully transform them into mouth-watering delicacies. This video left a lasting impression on the YouTube community, as Dong Hao artfully narrated his childhood memories of foraging for termite mushrooms alongside his dear friends. His sincere storytelling, coupled with his vivid depiction of the exquisite flavors achieved through his culinary expertise, captivated the hearts of viewers. In a mere span of two days, Dong Hao’s video garnered a staggering 15,000 views, along with numerous thumbs-ups and valuable feedback from individuals curious about this unique specialty.

Termite mushroom – A gift of nature in rubber plantations of Binh Phuoc
Termite mushroom grows in rubber plantations in Hon Quan district of Binh Phuoc province / Am thuc Dong Hao

“Dong Hao, a passionate forager, describes his love for termite mushrooms. With their distinct white caps and slightly yellow roots, termite mushrooms have captivated Dong since his childhood. Each year, he eagerly embarks on a quest to find these delectable mushrooms, exploring the rubber tree plots in the early morning. He perseveres until he fills his basket with an abundance of termite mushrooms, savoring their umami flavor.”

In rubber plantations during the wet season, the soil becomes covered with decomposing leaves. To locate termite mushrooms, which typically grow just above the ground, foragers must carefully observe and use small sticks. In the early stages of the rainy season, the soil is soft enough to allow foragers to easily pull out even the deepest roots of the mushrooms with their bare hands. However, caution must be exercised to avoid crushing the delicate fungus, which would result in less flavorful dishes when cooking with termite mushrooms.

Termite mushroom – A gift of nature in rubber plantations of Binh Phuoc
Mushroom floss / Giao duc va Thoi dai
Termite mushroom thrives exclusively on unpolluted soil, making it absent from lands treated with fertilizers. According to the local community, this unique species flourishes by feeding on the organic waste produced by subterranean termites residing in highly elevated mound areas. These termite nests, resembling porous knolls, are roughly the size of small baskets. In a single mound, numerous termite nests can be found. Remarkably, termite mushroom experiences three to five growth cycles annually, ensuring its continuous propagation.

The chef aims to preserve the freshness of the rare and highly nutritious termite mushroom, so they employ a simple cooking process. The freshly harvested mushrooms undergo a thorough cleaning, with the chef ensuring that any dirt clinging to the roots of the fungi is removed. The result is a delectable array of dishes, including termite mushroom porridge, sautéed termite mushroom with sponge gourd, termite mushroom floss, pepper-brined termite mushroom, termite mushroom soup, and roasted termite mushroom with chili salt. While termite mushroom may seem like a humble ingredient, to locals, these dishes crafted from this unique fungi are just as flavorful as any extravagant cuisine.

Termite mushroom – A gift of nature in rubber plantations of Binh Phuoc
Rubber plantations in Binh Phuoc province / Poliva

To make a delectable dish of termite mushroom with chicken soup, Dong Tam meticulously selects fresh, plump chickens with tender meat. After thoroughly cleaning the chicken, the talented Youtuber skillfully cuts it into bite-sized chunks. He first fries finely minced shallots, then proceeds to sauté them along with the chicken until they are tender and succulent. Next, he adds boiled water to the mixture, before incorporating flavorful termite mushrooms once the chicken is cooked to perfection. Dong Hao expertly avoids overcooking the soup, ensuring that the mushrooms retain their desired texture and do not become soggy.

Termite mushroom is naturally rich in umami flavor, allowing the chef to use minimal seasoning. A pinch of salt, freshly ground pepper, and finely chopped scallion are all that’s needed to elevate the taste of these nutritious fungi into a delectable dish.

Termite mushroom – A gift of nature in rubber plantations of Binh Phuoc
Pepper brined termite mushroom, termite mushroom soup, and termite mushroom roasted with chilly salt / Am thuc Dong Hao

Termite mushroom, in addition to being found in the southeast region of Vietnam, also grows in select provinces in the central highlands and southwest areas. The people of southern Vietnam have a strong affinity for termite mushrooms, often using them as a flavorful filling for banh xeo, a crispy Vietnamese pancake. To prepare the mushrooms, locals season them with a touch of spicy salt and lightly sauté them with dried garlic. These savory mushrooms are then added to the banh xeo batter, resulting in a mouthwatering dish. The banh xeo, accompanied by the delightful flavors of termite mushroom and a crispy rice cover infused with coconut milk, is prepared in just a few minutes and ready to be served.

There is a widespread belief among mushroom traders that the termite mushroom cultivated in southern provinces such as Ben Tre boasts a superior flavor compared to those grown in the southeast or central highlands. During the termite mushroom season, the prices can range from VND 600,000 to 800,000 per kilogram (approximately US$ 26 – 34/kg). This sought-after mushroom, with its rich nutrition profile and delightful crunchy texture, tends to be in high demand and often sells out rapidly during the early rainy season.