My first encounter with truffles happened, of course, in Istria, via pljukanci – a type of spindle-shaped Istrian pasta. These noble mushrooms soon found their way into my heart and made me want to know them better.
Truffles are an underground mushroom that grows in wet soil at the depth of 10 to 30 centimeters, mostly near rivers. They are found using specially trained dogs and pigs. The local area that is richest in truffles is around the valley of Mirna river. The soil there is wet and the forest of Motovun is rich in oak trees – a tree that has a symbiotic relationship with truffles. There are four types of truffles: summer black, spring white, winter black and, the most expensive one, the summer white truffle.
Since this delicacy is quite expensive, most people will encounter truffles in restaurants. The best place to do so is at the source – in Istria, where restaurants can earn a mark of excellence, the True Truffle, or Tartufo vero, a certificate of quality and an assurance that its truffle preparation is of highest quality. An ideal time to try truffles is during Days of Truffles Festival in Istria, from September till the end of November, an occasion to celebrate and promote this jewel of Istrian cuisine.
The most popular dish is certainly the Istrian black tartufata, homemade pasta with minced black truffles and sweet cream. Somewhat more adventurous gourmands will be interested in something sweet, such as the famous chocolate cake with olive oil and truffles or truffle ice-cream.