White or beige, but never black, the “desert truffle” is a rare delicacy with a dedicated marketplace in Kuwait. Demand is always high though supply varies. Kuwait’s production is low and both Kuwait and Saudi varities run at KD 50 per kilo, with other Middle Eastern varieties from countries like Algeria or Iraq cost from KD 10-KD 20 per kilo.
On the outskirts of Kuwait City, in the Rai industrial district, connoisseurs begin perusing the truffle souk at 9am, surveying the various weights and colors and using their noses to select the best fungus by smell. The market was devised by the municipality of Al Rai, an industrial zone just northwest of Kuwait City, which oversees quality control and guarantees the traceability of the fungus.
Kuwait’s truffle crops have also been hit by a changing environment. Unlike European truffles, which grow under tree roots, desert truffles spring up after rain, which means that volume and quality vary according to the amount of precipitation and the general weather.
That has only increased desire for the delicacy, especially for making Kabsa, a spiced rice specialty common throughout the Gulf and a popular dish in Kuwait. The main ingredients are long grain rice, red meat and truffles, used to flavor the broth while cooking.
Fresh truffles are only available from November to April in Kuwait, but some vendors sell a dried variation of the delicacy during the region’s scorching summer months in a bid to meet their customers’ cravings all year round.