Spice – this fungus/lichen in the Garam Masala? (“Trifle”/truffle?)


I just bought a lovely bag of Garam Masala, and was all ready to grind some when I got home! But when I opened it, I found something I didn’t recognise — at first I thought something had gone mouldy, but there’s enough of this in there that whatever it is, I presume it’s supposed to be in there.

Picture of the strange fungus

It looks to me like a fungus or lichen of some sort. The list of ingredients includes “trifle” — could that be a mis-spelling for some Indian species of truffle, perhaps?

Best Answer

It seems to be an edible lichen. It looks very like one described online as (black) stone flower in English and dagad phool in Hindi, which seems to be a not uncommon ingredient in various spice mixes; e.g. on the left in this photo from an Indian food blog:

[Edit: photo removed as I’ve just realised the author of that blog specifically requests not redistributing their content. It’s a nice photo + site, though, if you follow the link!]

Having found these names, it’s now not hard to find a lot of websites mentioning it, especially in blogs/forum threads; but I can’t find any site in English that gives much detailed information. Even its purpose in the mix is a bit unclear: some blog commenters describe it as having a unique earthy, mushroom-y flavour; others, as being similar to star anise; Wikipedia even seems to suggest it might just be a bulking agent. (I don’t get any particular scent off it, at least not dry.)

So I think this is probably the right identification; and I’m reassured that it’s not something wrong with the mix; but I’m still quite intrigued, and would love to hear more about this ingredient from someone who knows it better!