Truffles are a type of highly prized and sought-after edible fungi that grow underground and there are many varieties of this ingredient available all over the world. Himalayan black truffles are an Indian variety of this luxurious ingredient, and are grown across the Himalayan regions of the nation. Here is everything you need to know about them.
Recently, Australian chef Gary Mehigan has been travelling across India and tasting local cuisines. But that’s not all because the ex-MasterChef Australia judge is also travelling with Flinders truffles from Mornington, Australia—which he will be taking to a special event at Kolkata. For those who don’t know, Flinders is a type of black truffle and like all truffles, it is a type of highly prized and sought-after edible fungi that grow underground. But did you know that there is a variety of truffles that are grown in India and are quite luxurious too?
Himalayan Black Truffles, also known as black summer truffles (Tuber indicum), are a type of edible fungi found in the foothills of the Himalayan region, particularly in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. These truffles are highly prized for their culinary value and are some of the costliest food ingredients grown and used in India. In fact, Himalayan Black Truffles are generally more affordable compared to other truffle varieties like the Italian black truffle or French Périgord truffle.
In terms of taste, Himalayan Black Truffles have a complex and earthy flavor profile. They offer a combination of musky, nutty, and slightly garlicky notes. While their taste is distinct, it is less intense compared to other truffle varieties like the Italian black truffle or French Périgord truffle. Culinarily, Himalayan Black Truffles are sought after by chefs and food enthusiasts for their unique flavor and aroma. They are used as a luxurious ingredient to elevate various dishes. Grated or thinly sliced, they can be added to dishes like pasta, risotto, scrambled eggs, soups, and sauces, infusing them with their distinctive flavor. Their fragrance and taste enhance the overall sensory experience of the dish.
Video Credit: YouTube/Babish Culinary Universe
Cultivation Of Truffles In India
Himalayan Black Truffles are primarily grown in the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Jammu and Kashmir in India. Truffles require specific environmental conditions to thrive. These include a symbiotic relationship with host trees, specific soil composition, proper drainage, and a suitable climate. The regions where Himalayan Black Truffles are cultivated provide the necessary conditions, such as cool temperatures, moderate rainfall, and suitable soil types.
So, the cultivation of truffles in India is based on a number of factors. Truffles form a mycorrhizal association with certain tree species, meaning they establish a beneficial relationship with the roots of these trees. In the case of Himalayan Black Truffles, oak (Quercus spp.) and hazelnut (Corylus spp.) are commonly used as host trees. These trees are planted in truffle orchards, providing a suitable environment for truffle growth. To initiate truffle cultivation, truffle spores or mycelium are introduced into the root zone of the host trees. This can be done by various methods, including incorporating truffle spores into the soil or using inoculated seedlings.
Truffle cultivation requires patience, as it takes several years for truffles to mature. The mycelium grows and develops underground, forming the truffle fruiting bodies. The exact timing of truffle formation can vary, but it typically occurs during the monsoon season in India. Truffle hunting is traditionally done with trained dogs or pigs that have a keen sense of smell and can locate the buried truffles. Once the truffles are located, they are carefully extracted from the soil. Harvesting is typically done by hand to avoid damaging the truffles.
Culinary Uses Of Himalayan Black Truffles
Himalayan Black Truffles are highly regarded for their culinary value and are used in various dishes in India and beyond. Here are some common culinary uses of Himalayan Black Truffles.
Flavor enhancer: Grated or thinly sliced Himalayan Black Truffles are used as a flavor enhancer in a wide range of dishes. They add a distinct earthy, nutty, and slightly garlicky flavor to foods, enhancing the overall taste profile of simple dishes like pasta and risotto.
Sauces and dressings: Himalayan Black Truffles are used to infuse sauces and dressings with their distinctive flavor. They can be incorporated into creamy mushroom sauces, vinaigrettes, or drizzled over salads for a delightful flavor boost.
Egg dishes: Truffles and eggs are a classic combination. Shaved or grated truffles are often added to scrambled eggs, omelets, or quiches, creating an indulgent and aromatic breakfast or brunch option.
Soups and stews: Truffles can be incorporated into various soups and stews, adding depth and richness to the flavors. They can be added to mushroom soups, lentil stews, or vegetable-based dishes, infusing them with their distinctive aroma.
Cheese and charcuterie boards: Himalayan Black Truffles are a popular addition to cheese and charcuterie boards. They can be served alongside a selection of cheeses, cured meats, and bread, allowing their flavor to complement and elevate the other ingredients.
Gourmet preparations: Truffles are often used in gourmet preparations and fine dining establishments to add a luxurious touch to dishes. They can be found in high-end culinary creations like truffle-infused sauces, truffle-flavored oils, and even truffle-infused desserts.