This Magic Umami Powder Will Make Everything You Eat Way Healthier — And Way More Delicious
While mushrooms have been gaining popularity as an adaptogenic superfood in recent years, mushroom powder is actually a gastronomic superstar in its own right. Explains Cameron Stauch, the author of Vegetarian Việt Nam, "While researching my book, I learned that many Vietnamese cooks use vegan mushroom seasoning as a flavor enhancer and to increase the umami, or savoriness, in a dish. This manufactured product contains mushroom powder and essence, salt, vitamin B, and calcium. You’ll find naturally occurring glutamates in many ingredients like ripe tomatoes, miso, seaweed, and of course, dried shiitake mushrooms. Knowing this, I set out to make a quick homemade, natural version to use as an everyday flavor booster."
Stauch landed on a version that utilizes shiitake mushrooms and a coffee grinder to make an ingredient that quickly elevates home cooking—one that can be, according to Stauch, used for a number of dishes. "I don’t limit the use of mushroom powder in my kitchen to just Vietnamese dishes," he explains. "I’ve come to rely on it as a seasoning ingredient, like salt and pepper. I’ve recognized when I add it in small amounts, ½ to 1 teaspoon, to dishes, it adds an extra oomph without a noticeable pronounced mushroom flavor. I’ll add a touch more to punch up the richness and earthiness in the recipe when mushrooms are a main ingredient. I look at it as a shortcut to punch up the flavor and to add umami goodness to any recipe."
Here are a few of his favorite uses:
- Sprinkle some in near the end of cooking pasta sauces, risottos, and soups.
- Add a dash into stir-fried greens, especially spinach, Swiss chard, bok choy, or cabbage
- Use it as a seasoning for popcorn. A personal favorite is a mixture of mushroom powder, seaweed powder, and a pinch of chili flakes.
- Add it to marinades or salad dressings. It’s a great booster in soy sauce marinades or ones with garlic, rosemary, and parsley. It pairs well in a sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger dressing.
- Dust some mushroom powder during the final minutes of roasting root vegetables or squashes.
Shiitakes, of course, contain many of the superpower health benefits of mushrooms, including reducing cholesterol levels, helping maintain healthy weight levels, boosting immunity, and even helping to fight cancer by inducing a cell cleansing process called apoptosis.
The good news? Making your own mushroom powder is incredibly easy. Here's Stauch's easy recipe, excerpted from his new cookbook, Vegetarian Việt Nam.
Due to their intensity, shiitakes are the ideal mushrooms for this powder. You could substitute sliced Italian porcini, although their flavor is more pronounced, and they’re more expensive, as is the shiitake or porcini powder you’ll find in some specialty grocery stores.
Makes a scant ½ cup
1 ounce (30 g) dried shiitake mushrooms
- Break the mushrooms into smaller pieces with your hands, scissors, or a knife. (Break off the hard stems of large shiitakes and store in the freezer to use when making vegetable stock.) Put into a spice or coffee grinder (or a blender with a narrow bowl) and grind for a couple of minutes. Stop occasionally to use a spoon or spatula to loosen any large pieces that may get stuck under the blades. (Note: When stopping the grinder, leave the top on for a minute or two to allow the mushroom dust to settle.)
- Tip the powder into a small bowl. Gently tap the grinder cover over the bowl or use a spatula or a clean, dry brush to collect any powder that has stuck to it.
- Transfer to a clean, dry jar and store indefinitely in a cool, dry place.
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