Truffles are highly prized fungi that grow at a depth of 5 to 30 cm below the ground. They resemble potatoes in appearance, which is the only “ordinary” characteristic of this food item. Namely, truffles possess a very specific and powerful scent, which is the reason why they are used by top international chefs in their culinary specialties. Their rarity and difficult procurement makes them a very expensive ingredient, but the way they heighten dishes and local Istrian cuisine justifies the cost.
Legend says that truffles grow because the god Jupiter struck an oak tree with a bolt of lightning. Besides being responsible for creating one of the most highly esteemed foods, it is because of him that truffles also carry the flattering title of aphrodisiacs.
In the underground of the Motovun forest, around the magical medieval town of Motovun, reside the truffles that are documented in the Guinness Book of Records. This is the valley in which you will walk upon gastronomic gold, because it is entirely brimming with truffles. It is precisely here that a white truffle weighing over 1.3 kg was found. When a fungus gets its own name, you know it is important. One such truffle, the tuber magnatum pico, was auctioned off at Sotheby’s for as much as USD 61,250. Not bad for a “potato”, wouldn’t you say? It comes as no surprise then that the best truffle hounds are worth up to EUR 20,000.
Autumn is the time of year to forage for the most valuable – white truffles. Due to their poor distribution, foraging for them is often compared to a hunt for hidden treasure. You can embark on a truffle search yourself, but if you are the more sit-and-eat type, then it is sufficient that you visit the Istrian Truffle Days from September to November, or put yourself in the hands of chefs at numerous Istrian restaurants any time of the year.
After a hardworking (and expensive) dog digs out a truffle, it is handed over to top chefs, and then comes the best part – food. What makes Istrian cuisine unique worldwide is its assortment of fresh black and white truffles all year round! Truffles there are always on every plate. The best dishes are also the easiest to prepare: truffles grated on homemade pasta, or truffles on an omelette, aka the famous frittata. You won’t go wrong if you try them in a Mediterranean combination with fish or baby shrimp, or even meat. The unique taste that truffles add to each dish will surely etch itself in your mind, and your memory of Istria will evoke its own intense taste and aroma.
If you are a fan of sweets, you can cool off in the hot days with truffle ice cream. Yes, you read it correctly – ice cream. Its modern variant is a chocolate soufflé topped with thin truffle slices, which local food connoisseurs call the Istrian host. Hallelujah!