Thailand has its own truffles, Chiang Mai researchers find

SUNDAY, JUNE 23, 2024

Valued fare of expensive restaurants, a species of truffle has been confirmed in Thailand

Truffles, hailed as a “priceless treasure of the culinary world”, are a staple ingredient for chefs in the most luxurious restaurants. They are one of the most exquisite ingredients revered in the culinary sphere and play a crucial role in Michelin-starred restaurants. 
And interestingly, Thailand has also been found to host truffles.

Initially, the consumption of truffles in Italy and France was predominantly a privilege of the elite because of  their scarcity and exorbitant price.

Thailand has its own truffles, Chiang Mai researchers find

The price of black truffles can reach US$3,500 (128,500 baht) per kilogramme, whereas the renowned white truffles, which are only found in Alba, Piedmont, Italy, are nearly twice as expensive. 
Truffles are intensely flavourful and have a distinctive, strong aroma. They are a key ingredient in many dishes, particularly in French and Italian cuisine. 

Truffles grow underground in temperate forests, ane are often sought after by squirrels and rabbits. 

Truffles cannot grow without symbiosis with large trees. They resemble underground tubers, much like ginger, with a bumpy, wart-like exterior. They grow in circles underground, at a depth of 5-40 centimetres, within 1.2-1.5 metres of the roots of oak and elm trees. This is due to a biological relationship with the roots, where trees and fungi exchange nutrients. 

Because truffles are hidden underground with no visible sign above the surface, finding them requires trained animals such as pigs and dogs.

Thailand has its own truffles, Chiang Mai researchers find

Researchers from Chiang Mai University discovered a truffle that has a similar flavour profile to Tuber magnatum found in Alba, Italy, potentially positioning Thailand as a future truffle supplier.

In 2014, researchers from Chiang Mai University discovered truffles in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. They named it Tuber thailanddicum,” and it has a similar flavour to the white truffles found in Italy. 

The research team had been studying mushrooms in the national park for many years before Dr Nakarin Suwanaraj, one of the team members, serendipitously discovered truffles near a landslide area. 
The truffles were sent abroad for DNA analysis, which confirmed their identity as truffles.

Nakarin noted that Thai truffles do not grow near oak trees like Western truffles but are found near a type of birch called Betula alnoides, known locally as “tiger power trees”. 

The team has preserved truffle samples in a lab and is working on cultivating the species for future commercial use, which may take some time before truffles become a part of Thailand's local ingredients.