The trouble you can get into with truffles

22Mar07

Truffles. These are a group of valuable and sought-after underground fungi. True truffles belong to the genus Tuber and are made up of several species. There’s black truffle, white truffle, Chinese truffle, and Summer truffle. There are lesser known kinds of truffle. Truffles are considered a delicacy and they are quite expensive. The world’s most expensive truffle was a 1.5 kilogram white truffle that was sold for $160,000.

Truffles are traditionally ‘hunted’ using pigs. The problem is pigs love truffles as much as people do and they can end up eating the truffle. Truffle-sniffing dogs are used as substitutes for pigs. Dogs will eat truffles but they prefer bread and other treats so they are easily distracted. Truffles are usually preserved in grapeseed or very light olive oil and placed in a jar.

Our chef from Antichi Sapori had a friend in Hong Kong who invited him to spend time with him in Italy for the holidays. Heading back to Hong Kong, his friend brought along with them truffles in a jar. Flight to Hong Kong from Italy was usually direct but in this instance they had a stopover in Bangkok. The Hong Kong authorities are wary of passengers coming from Bangkok since it is the center of the opium trade in Asia. They have drug-sniffing dogs and all that. It was quite unfortunate that the jar did not survive the long trip. It broke and spilled its contents, splashing oil and freeing up the truffles. The chef and his friend was aware of this and as they passed through customs, the drug-sniffing dogs went nuts. They smelled the truffles and they wanted those bad. They barked and yelped and scratched at the bag with the broken jar of truffles. Well, you know what happened next. The authorities were on top of those two men in an instant. The incident was smoothed out after much explaining and the two men were released.

I’m going to have the pasta with truffles at Antichi Sapori soon. I wonder if it will be worth the price tag. I hope there won’t be any drug-sniffing dogs around.

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