The first and only time I ever had truffles was during my internship in Taiwan. I had gotten about 2-3 hours of sleep the night before, and was still working late into the evening. I remember feeling extremely woozy at that particular dinner, while I chatted in Mandarin (it probably came out as nonsense) with my table-mates, and ate my way through a 7 or 8 course meal.
There was one dish that came out toward the middle, a plate of braised lettuce drowned in sauce, dotted with little black flecks. I assumed they were bits of seaweed, but when I took my first bite, I was startled at an utterly addictive flavor I couldn’t place. I ate the whole plate. I would have licked it clean if I hadn’t been seated at a fancy dinner, surrounded by diplomats from various countries. Following my last surreptitious plate scrape, I had the following conversation with my coworker (roughly translated from Mandarin, and probably not very accurate because I wasn’t 100% mentally present at the time).
Her: Do you like the song lu?
Me: (clueless) *nodding and smiling emphatically*
Her: (goes back to eating)
Me: (after 5 minutes and an epiphanic moment) Oh, are these truffles?
That was two summers ago. I haven’t had the opportunity to taste a truffle since. Eventually, I realized that there is this wonderful thing called truffle salt, semi-within-my-budget. So I shopped around. I spent 20 minutes pacing in Williams Sonoma, ultimately unwilling to exchange $30 of my summer savings for a tiny jar of salt. I toyed with Dean & Deluca’s offering. Equally expensive.
Hope came to me in the form of mashed potatoes at a Thanksgiving family lunch. My aunt told me they were white truffled mashed potatoes, and brought out a tiny jar of Hepp’s white truffle salt, which she told me cost $10. My eyes slowly expanded to the size of saucers, and I began hyperventilating. I drove out to a farmer’s market one day, and spent a good ten minutes inhaling Hepp’s white and black truffle salts. I wanted to take both home with me, but spending $10 on one minuscule jar was bad enough.
Black truffle it was. For those of you who have never smelled black truffle salt before, it’s…I’m not sure how to put this in words. A tinge of gasoline, olives, complex saltiness, and musty dark rooms. None of which sound very appealing, but somehow they form one of the most wonderful scents I’ve ever come across.
I’ve been very careful with my truffle salt so far. It’s a finishing salt (as opposed to a cooking salt), so only a tiny bit is needed each time. Once or twice a week, I’ll judiciously dip my little spoon into the salt jar, and top off a runny baked egg, or sprinkle a tiny bit on olive oil popcorn. I’ve heard truffles are good with risotto, fries, and pasta as well, but that will come later on. For now, I’m as happy as a hobbit with my little jar of joy.
Hepp’s Black Truffle Salt available online here. They also carry White Truffle Salt at select farmer’s markets.