It is a measure of how food habits are changing in India and how much money people are now willing to spend on eating out that more and more hotels and restaurants are willing to import white truffles, the world's most expensive food item. This season, I’ve seen truffles on the menu at the Taj Palace, the Leela, the Oberoi and Diva. And that’s just the places I’ve been to.
If you like the idea of truffles, here’s what you need to remember.
• Black truffles are a food. You can cook with them. White truffles are a condiment. They are destroyed by heat. You can only shave thin slices on a dish just before you eat it.
• Indian chefs do not, on the whole, understand white truffles so beware of people who offer to shave white truffles on your steak or your fried fish.
• The best way to enjoy white truffles is to order a single pasta dish, ideally fresh tagliolini with a buttery sauce. Then shave the truffle on top of the pasta and let the flavour infuse the food.
• Truffles and eggs are a good combination too. Black truffles work in an omelette. But white truffles can be shaved on to creamy scrambled eggs or onto a perfect fried egg. But you must use free-range eggs, like Keggs.
• You can also shave them on to a risotto but it must be a mildly-flavoured risotto so that its taste does not interfere with the truffles.
• Do not confuse the aromas of fresh truffles with the chemical aroma of truffle oil, which contains no truffles but is flavoured artificially with a petroleum derivative.
This season, the truffle harvest has been plentiful so prices are lower than last year. But so far at least, the quality of this year’s truffle has been so-so.