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Truffling feathers – a look at “fake” truffles


Truffles have become one of the trendiest ingredients in recent years. Truffle fries, pasta with truffles and other dishes seasoned with truffles are increasingly making an appearance in restaurants.

But are you really getting an authentic truffle experience in your dish? At US$1,000 per pound, real truffles are one of the most expensive foods in the world. And as with anything lucrative, “alternatives” that approximate the aroma and taste of truffles have also cropped up.

The real stuff

Truffles come in two versions – black and white. Both are very delicate food items. White truffles are usually served uncooked, shaved on top of hot dishes like pasta so that they are just barely warmed through. Black truffles can stand up to cooking better, and you may find them shaved onto pizza or stuffed into roasts.

There are many different ways to describe what real truffles smell and taste like. They are described as slightly garlicky with an aroma that is very earthy and pungent.

Chinese Truffle
By CGehlen

Chinese truffles may resemble their French counterparts, but often lack the intense flavour and aroma of the original.

If you decide to buy genuine truffles from a trusted shop, take good care of it. Wrap it loosely in a slightly damp kitchen towel and store it in a plastic tub in your fridge. It’ll keep for a week.

The simplest serving suggestion? Thinly shave it over soft scrambled eggs. Induction cooking hobs like the Electrolux EHC726BA can provide a steady, consistent cooking heat ideal for making dishes with delicate ingredients like truffles.

The imitations

With truffles becoming more popular, enterprising manufacturers are constantly finding new ways to create “truffle-based” foods that contain no truffle at all. Truffle-infused oils, butter and foodstuffs like pasta usually just contain synthesized aromas made from chemicals that mimic the flavour of truffles. This is why you can pick up a $10 bottle of truffle oil – which is simply olive oil with truffle-flavoured compounds – at a store.

French Truffles
By Blue moon in her eyes
When cut open, French truffles tend to have many veins inside than Chinese truffles.

The traditional French truffle is also facing unwelcome competition from the far cheaper Chinese truffle. The latter looks almost the same as its French counterpart, but costs far less, about $100 a pound. Chinese black truffles tend to be more elastic than French black truffles. Sliced Chinese truffles are more likely to bend than break.

When ripe, black truffles are black inside with white veins. French truffles tend to have thicker and more veins than Chinese truffles.  The biggest difference however comes down to taste and smell. The Chinese truffle is a lot milder in aroma and taste, which may leave true connoisseurs unsatiated.

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