Several types of wild fungi or mushrooms are collected for food in Borneo and when in season they may be found at wet markets and more usually in the open-air weekly tamu in Sabah. One favourite and particularly tasty mushroom, Termitomyces clipeatus is called cendawan kaki pelanduk in Malay, meaning "mousedeer hoof mushroom" refering to the shape of the un-opened mushrooms. The Chinese Hakkas call it kai nyuk ku 鸡肉菇 which means "chicken-meat mushroom" for its sweet taste. Indeed when cooked in soup or stir-fried it tastes a little like chicken!
This species of mushrooms belongs to a group of fungi commonly called Termite Mushrooms. They are so named because they are cultivated by termites inside their nests or mounds in underground fungus gardens! However termites grow and harvest the fungus in its minute mycelium stage without letting it develope into the umbrella-shaped fruiting bodies that we called mushrooms and which we eat! Therefore those growing in the termites' nests are not usually available for human to pick, that is unless the termites for some reasons could not control their growth (for example when it rains too much) when the mycelia will literally grow through the roof of their nest and burst onto the surface of the ground as mushrooms. Which will set us humans into a collecting frenzy!
Apparently species of Termitomyces also grow in the wild without the termites' gardening them and every once in a while, usually after heavy rains or a thunderstorm following a long dry season, hundreds of these mushrooms suddenly appear like magic in patches in the orchard or plantation, even away from termite mounds.
For many Borneans, coming across a patch of these tasty treats would be a thing of joy, friends and any passerbys would be called to join in the gathering, the harvest shared among other friends and relatives, and surplus would be sold in the market. These bonanzas usually last for only a few days, then, again as if by magic they would disappear for months or even years before the next appearence.
Click here for an interesting (and yummy) way to cook this mushroom.