Jharkhand is the land of forests and forest tribes, so it’s no surprise the state’s cuisine is strongly influenced by the local ingredients of its forests — edible green leaves or saag, flowers, fruit, tubers, mushrooms, and truffles. I came to Ranchi in 1997 on transfer. I noticed while walking through the local markets where Adivasi women populate the streets as vendors bringing fresh vegetables from their farms and kitchen gardens, I spotted an odd thing during early monsoon seasons. These were small, round, white balls, about the size of grapes with a mushroom-like appearance, but no stick or stalk attached to the ball. On inquiry, I found out that these balls are locally called Rugda (रुगड़ा).
You would have probably never heard of Rugda before. The reason being that it is rare and are found in parts of Jharkhand during early monsoon seasons when there are lots of thunder and lightning. Rugda is a truffle indigenous to Jharkhand. The rare truffle grows by itself only in the dense Sal (Shorea robusta) forests in Jharkhand. For those who are not acquainted with rugda, it looks like naphthalene balls, white or grey in colour and consists of a round rubbery outer cover with a soft egg-yolk like core inside.
A truffle is an underground fungus. They only grow underground in wild forests a few months each year. Truffles and mushrooms are both fungi, they’re both delicious, and they both go in similar dishes. The biggest difference is the scarcity of truffles compared to mushrooms. Mushrooms can be found growing above ground, whilst truffles always grow underground attached to tree roots. The local tribal women hunt for Rugda in the forests digging the soil for about a few inches and collect it.
Monsoon has just begun and I thought of having Rugda. As I saw Rugda selling in the local market, we bought it. A kg of Rugda sells for over ₹300 ($4). Before cooking, it needs to be cleaned and washed properly. Once cooked, you can enjoy its meat-like flavour very similar to the chicken liver with a crunchy prawn-like shell. Prepared with onion, garlic, and spices, it tastes absolute yummy.
Rugda is highly rich in protein and has no carbohydrate which makes it an extremely healthy food. They are also rich in vitamins and minerals. A lot about Jharkhand’s history is unrecorded. And when it comes to the culinary history of the state, we just cannot trace anything. There’s barely any dish of Jharkhand that is popular nationwide.