Why do wealthy Chinese love Italy’s white truffles so much?

Elite Chinese chefs and gourmands can’t get enough of a famous fungus that sells for sky-high prices.

Averaging €300 for 100 grams (about S$450 per pound) – but with the largest specimens selling for substantially more – highly sought-after white truffles from Italy’s northern Piedmont region are commonly called “white gold”.

The Chinese love affair with these musky-tasting truffles has given rise to a niche industry of cooks, businessmen and millionaires from Shanghai to Singapore. They have become the main buyers of the expensive delicacy and the major protagonists in the annual truffle drama – the yearly auction in the Piedmont town of Alba.

“Each year in Alba we stage the white truffle global auction, and for the past 15 years it has been held simultaneously through streaming in Hong Kong, which boasts a permanent seat,” says Marco Scuderi, vice-president of the International Alba White Truffle Fair. “Also, Singapore and Tokyo have connected to the internet auction in recent years, but as usual the last edition [auction] was won by Hong Kong. The Chinese are our biggest, most sophisticated clientele.”

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