Transform the quintessential Indian comfort food, Rice and Dal into a gourmet indulgence with Black Truffle slices – Black Truffle Dal!
Every Monday this month, you’ll find a Truffle infused dish here and I’m starting with this Black Truffle Dal.
My first taste of truffles was at Rosewood Mayakoba in Mexico, and it was truffle flavoured popcorn, followed by truffle flavoured French fries. Hey, I was in the mood for some junk food, and these were all they had. Don’t judge me!
It would be 2 years later that I would taste it again, this time, it was in the form of a Goat Cheese Queso Fundido at Pueblo, Los Angeles. And that pretty much sealed the deal. I searched, and searched until I found a bottle of black truffle slices (preserved in oil) on Amazon.
For some reason, most truffle recipes favour the already indulgent foods – cheese, meat, seafood, pasta, eggs… but how would it fare in a dish that is the opposite of indulgence? And to me, that’s Paruppu Satham (Dal Chawal). If there could be a dish at the bottom of the Indian Food chain, this would be it. A simple, basic Indian meal consisting of rice and over-cooked + mashed lentil that’s lightly seasoned. It’s what you eat when you miss your mom, it’s what you eat when you are sick. It’s the ultimate comfort food, a comfort that comes with no effort whatsoever.
Now let’s go give comfort an expensive makeover, shall we?
What are Truffles?
If you thought they were a dessert made with chocolate ganache, keep reading.
Truffles are a form of edible fungi (commonly thought of as a mushroom) native to Europe and are one of the most expensive ingredients in the world. How expensive, you ask? 1 kg of Black Truffle (which is less expensive than a white truffle) can set you back $1,000 – $2,000!!! The world’s largest white truffle (1.89 kgs) was auctioned at a Sotheby’s auction in 2014 for $61,000! Yeah, no kidding!
And if it makes you feel any better, Chocolate truffles are so named because of the close resemblance they bear to their namesake fungi. Also, the appreciation of the taste and most particularly the ‘smell’ of truffles is an acquired one. I always think of this scene from ‘No Reservations’ whenever I take a whiff of them. My hyperosmic husband gagged when he first tried to sniff a bottle of truffles. I’ve since learned that truffles to him are like garlic to vampires.
What makes them so expensive?
1. Truffles grow only under very specific conditions and for centuries, it was impossible to mass produce them. Even today, truffle farmers only re-create conducive conditions and hope to God they grow. They are truly wild, and cannot be controlled.
2. They grow in a symbiotic relationship with a host plant and could take 7-10 years to develop that relationship. Only after that, do they begin to reproduce and form truffles.
3. They grow underground, around the roots of the host plant. Which means, only specially trained dogs / pigs can dig them out. Pigs are naturally drawn to their scent, and dogs can be trained. Although pigs are more effective, they also tend to eat the truffles they find, making them a liability. In Italy, pigs were banned from truffle hunting due to the damage they cause to the truffle ecosystem.
Black Truffle Dal – How does it taste?
How did the truffle fit in with the dal? Perfectly. The truffle added a spotlight to the usually muted creaminess of the lentil. It is still comforting to eat, but with every mouthful, you are very aware of how heady it is, even though the flavour of the truffle is just an after note, just barely there.
I can imagine how difficult it could be to cook dal to this creamy smoothness, but with a pressure cooker, not only is it faster, it is also fool-proof! And don’t forget to soak your lentils before cooking them. Here’s why you should.
And while you can have the rice and Black Truffle dal just as is, it almost always demands a side of roasted potatoes. Make it a bit spicy, to add a sharp contrast of flavour to the mild lentils.
Here’s how I make mine:
Peel and dice potatoes and soak them in water for a half hour (This removes the excess starch and helps it get crisp). Heat some oil in a large pan and temper some mustard and cumin seeds. Drain the potatoes well and add to the tempered oil. Season with red chilli powder, turmeric powder, sambar powder and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, partially covered, tossing it a couple of times for it to brown and crisp on all sides. Remember to not crowd the pan. Once cooked, continue roasting uncovered, till crisp.
Or you could oven roast them. Whatever works!
And of course, cook some rice, as you normally would. Serve the Black Truffle dal with steaming hot rice and a side of spicy potatoes. Enter culinary heaven on a silky smooth ride.
Every Monday this month, I’ve been posting a recipe that uses Black Truffles. More from this series:
From left to right: Vegan Chocolate Truffles with Truffle Oil ,
When you make these (which I really think you SHOULD!), be sure to SHARE YOUR PHOTOS with me through Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. I’d love to see what you cook from here and will share it with pride on my social media feeds.
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