Truffles seem like they’re all the rage in culinary circles these days. Restaurants and even fast food joints across the country are advertising new dishes that come with the fragrant, flavorful aroma of the truffle. But how much do you know about this ingredient, and its resurgence in modern cuisine?
Different Ways to Eat a Truffle
Here’s one thing that might surprise you. Most of the culinary dishes that claim to have truffle flavoring aren’t made with full-fledged truffles, but rather with truffle oil. That’s all well and good, right? Well, here’s the surprising thing. While truffles themselves grow in the ground, most truffle oil is manufactured in a laboratory setting. The reason for the substitution is simple: Real truffles are quite rare, and using them in the kitchen is not always practical.
In fact, what’s called truffle oil is often just olive oil with some synthetic, potentially truffle-flavored additives.
We say potentially because, according to many experts, these truffle oils don’t necessarily taste like real, grown-in-the-earth truffles. They have a more one-dimensional flavor that has shifted public perception of what truffles should taste like.
That’s not to say that I won’t continue treating myself to my favorite truffle fries, or that their truffle flavoring isn’t legitimate; it’s just to say that the place of the truffle in modern cuisine is a little bit complicated.
A Unique Ingredient
The fact that most truffle flavoring is artificial is not, in itself, anything new. It’s been this way for a long time. And in all fairness, most flavored cooking oils bear just passing resemblances to their titular ingredients.
What’s interesting is that a lot of chefs who insist on using only “real” ingredients—organic produce, nothing that could ever be construed as synthetic or lab-grown—still love truffle oil, despite knowing that it doesn’t often contain actual truffles nor even taste like real truffles.
It could be argued that part of the reasoning for this is that chefs and diners alike enjoy the taste of synthetic truffle oil. It may not be “authentic” or actually truffle-like, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still delicious.
Also worth noting: Actually capturing the taste of real truffles is a difficult feat. Most cooking oils that have tried to use the real thing have come up short.
Developing a Taste for Truffles
There are some products out there that deliver something like real truffle taste, including organic truffle oils that do indeed use actual truffles as key ingredients. For those curious to see how such items fare in their own kitchens, take it away!
For those who simply want to relish the truffle resurgence, though, order some truffle fries and just enjoy them for what they are. Artificial or not, they’re likely to be quite tasty.
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