Truffles: An Elite, Sneaky Affair Like No Other

Touted as one of the most expensive ingredients mankind has ever known, truffles have a reign of their own. From the masses in their honour to organised crimes, they exude every bit of scandalous royalty. Occupying the throne of the culinary realm, truffles are beloved members of the international haute cuisine. If you’ve been tempted by the very thought of a chocolate sphere coated with nuts, here’s some revelation: chocolate truffles are called so, because they mirror the ‘real’ truffles. These ‘real’ truffles are essentially a variety of mushroom!

Unearthing Royalty: Rooting out Truffles

A hunt like no other, truffles are scouted by trained dogs. Scattered in their presence, they’re normally found resting under an oak tree. What makes them even more coveted is that they have to be unearthed, much like finding a treasure trove. Once a dog sniffs the gem out, a truffle cultivator might dig in and pull it out. Before the canines, the highly imperative task of identifying truffle spots lay with pigs. Turns out, the truffles they discovered ended up in their bellies!

Truffles have a disposition of their own and grow at their own will. A very specific combination of soil, temperature, and ecosystem are responsible for these stunning lumps. Inoculated truffle seedlings over a span grow into trees, which share a symbiotic relationship with truffles they house underneath. With a shelf-life running in merely days, truffles have to be savoured shortly after they’ve been extracted from down below. They tend to lose their earthy aroma and flavour as soon as they’ve seen the space above.

Now Serving: Diamonds on a Plate

When it comes to the plate, truffles can instantly elevate a dish. It’s tricky to confine their flavour into a set box of words, but ‘musky, ‘earthy’, ‘subtle’ are a few ones that hover around. Truffle-infused products like truffle oil, truffle salt, and truffle butter lend an intoxicating flavour to the palate.

Once the season sets in, one can find scrumptious servings of risotto or gnocchi blended with the decadent ingredient doing the rounds of luxury culinary affairs in parts of the world. Back at home in India, hints of the exotic edible obsession can be found in dumplings, lobsters and scrambled eggs among others.

Italian white truffles are celebrated as the supreme ones, with a kilo rocketing up to a jaw-dropping INR 142,056 (USD 2006). Trailing behind them are the winter black truffles, native to southern Europe. These chunks are known to escalate up to INR 50,208 (USD 709) per kilo. Chinese black truffles occupy a relatively cheaper orientation and are priced at INR 2,053 (USD 29) per kilo. (Price courtesy: Truffle.Farm)

An Underground Affair: Crimes, Rip-Offs

It’s not hard to imagine a drug-like image truffles have acquired today in the gastronomical arena. Owing to their superior liking and exorbitant rates, a series of crimes revolving around the precious ingredient have been reported: from adulterating to stealing, and all the hues in between. Less-regarded versions of truffles are often replaced with quality ones. Burglars have often been caught lurking around truffle farms, and attempts to kidnap the furry hunting assistants have been quite common!

Truffle rings are known to be active as well, sliding off these edible diamonds in hushed deals. Then there’s the sly tactic of slipping in low-quality lumps when they’re supplied to gourmet restaurants or exported. Which is why, most of the restaurants keenly pry into the delivered truffles before they go into a dish. The Chinese counterparts are often deemed to be of inferior quality, courtesy: their way of rooting out truffles. Unlike gloved hands that navigate through intertwined roots and soil in European provinces, farmers in China largely resort to hoes to scrape truffles out.

Nonetheless, they surely make for a fascinating element to reckon with, don’t they? If you’ve tried truffles before, or would like to, let us know in the comments below!

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