White Truffles In Istria: Do They Compare To Their Italian Cousin?

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White Truffles In Istria: How Do They Compare To Their Italian Cousin?

I didn’t know much about truffles until 2010 when Mrs. Chasing the Donkey and I went to The Italian White Truffle Festival in Alba, Piedmont. I will never forget walking up to the entry door of the building and being overwhelmed by the pungent aroma.

Mrs. CtD was pulling faces and looking at me for an explanation of what the smell was. Initially, I was baffled. I had never smelt anything like it before. I didn’t put two and two together and realized it was the scent of truffles. From that day on, the taste and that scent have been forever etched into my memory.

Since moving to Croatia, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the white truffle season to begin in Istria to relive the experience we had in Alba to sample a fresh white truffle once again.

A couple of weeks ago, we attended the Buzet truffle festival, this time with our 15-month-old baby donkey in tow. Upon arrival, we had a quick scout around and checked out all the vendors. There were several different truffle products, including cheese, salami, oil, pasta, ice cream, and both the fresh black and white truffles.

Unfortunately, the baby donkey wasn’t cooperating and wanted to be out of his pram, so we got him out and decided to eat. I ordered the pasta with shaved truffles while Mrs. CtD wrangled with him.

He was very persistent to run about; perhaps he was excited about trying the truffles as well…? Oh, boy was the pasta delicious; all 3 of us enjoyed it. I wonder if 15 months is too young to remember your first truffle experience? Probably right?

White Truffles in Istria
One of the many plates of pasta and shaved truffles we ate

After filling our bellies, we continued to look around the various stalls buying some truffle-infused cheese and sampling all the available things. Prosciutto, salami, olive oil, more cheese & donkey milk rakija.

No day at a food and wine festival would be complete without washing it all down with a glass of  Malvasia vino.

Then it was time to get to serious white truffle business! Just to be clear, I’m no truffle aficionado; however, when you’re in the market for a white truffle, I figure it’s important to pretend at least as though you have a clue.

After having a good sniff of a few White truffles, I find the perfect truffle! They pack it up into a jar with some rice to absorb any moisture, and we are off.

White Truffles in Istria
If I close my eyes, will the price go down?

For those of you that have not had the pleasure of tasting a white truffle, I guess by this stage, you’re wondering what is so special about them. In my opinion, it comes down to 2 things:

  • The scent and taste. It really is unique. I’ve heard many different descriptions from “dirty socks” to “newly plowed soil, fall rain, burrowing earthworms and the pungent memory of lost youth and old love affairs”! Not sure what the latter description means but the person who wrote that may have been eating magic mushrooms rather than a Tartufo when describing the fungi.
  • They are extremely rare and can only be collected for a couple of months each year. Put together something unique and rare, and you have a highly valuable product. So useful, in fact, that the price was 1400 Euro a kilo the day we purchased the delightful fungi. I should mention this was buying directly from the guy who forages for them, so no middlemen jacking up the prices.
White Truffles in Istria
My score
White Truffles in Istria
Could my smile get any bigger?

It is also worth mentioning that for something that smells and tastes so good, a truffle looks terrible. In fact, I think it looks like dried-up donkey poo!

One thing that I am certain of is that white truffles captivate people. They inspire people to search for them from all around the world, pay top dollar for them in restaurants and write crazy descriptions about them. Personally, I love them and plan on heading back to Istria next year for white truffle season.

What Did We Do With Our Truffle?

White Truffles in Istria
Eeny, meni, miny, moe… donkey poo anyone?

We arrived back home and cooked up a fresh batch of pasta and made a cream and butter sauce. I then shaved the Tartufo all over the pasta.

We shared it with my Teta and Tetak {Aunt & Uncle}, who also loved it. In fact, my 70 plus-year-old Uncle reported that the Tartufo was having an aphrodisiac effect and that his wife needed to watch out!

Truffle Hunting

White Truffles in Istria
The White Truffles in detail

How Does The Istrian White Truffle Compare With The Alba Tartufo Bianco?

Equally as good if not better because they are from Croatia!

Have you tried truffles? What did you think of them?

Comments (16)

  1. Love your article. Great experience, isn’t it?! I’ve watched once a reportage on French channel TV5 Monde, how actually many truffles found in Istria are exported to Alba and sold as Alba truffles. And in Istria we are left with imported truffles from who knows where. I was sad for a day. And it left me suspicious forever :-(.

    1. DAMN! That is shocking… I hope that Mr. CtD does not read this, he will be sad also. Good to know Istrian Truffles are THAT good.

  2. That pasta with truffles looks amazing! I would love to go to a truffle festival – what a great experience…another to add to my list of things I need to do asap!!

    1. Yup, and all of these little town around the Truffle festivals are good for kids to run and jump in the leaves. Win, win.

  3. Thanks for including my article about truffle hunting in Emilia-Romagna. It was so much fun and it was very cool having our own truffles shaved on our scrambled eggs in the morning. The truffle aroma is unique and hard to describe — very earthy with a bit of a garlic smell. Would love to be around for one of the truffle festivals.

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