I think mushrooms are delicious. If I want a savoury, rich, flavourful, almost “meaty” taste without any meat involved, I reach for the mushrooms. Mushrooms have “umami” which is considered the fifth taste after sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. Umami can generally be described as a taste which is rich and savoury. You actually possess taste receptors for the umami taste. Foods with umami are usually high in glutamate, inosine monophosphate, or guanosine monophosphate. Glutamate is the basic form of umami. The presence of inosine monophosphate or guanosine monophosphate will enhance the taste of glutamate for an even stronger umami taste. In the case of mushrooms, there is a high concentration of guanosine monophosphate, which can combine with glutamate-rich foods such as fermented soy products (like tempeh) for a powerfully savoury flavour. Soy sauce is my favourite condiment, and as a fermented soy food, it possesses umami due to its high glutamate content. Other foods which contain umami are fermented vegetables, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, cured meats, chicken, beef, shellfish, and green tea.
For people who do not eat meat, or who want to limit their meat consumption, mushrooms are one of the foods to prepare for a satisfying, tasty meal. Not only are mushrooms full of flavour, but they are full of fibre and contain minerals and vitamins that are beneficial to your health. The texture of mushrooms can be fleshy and satisfying. You can eat them raw in a salad, but their flavours really come out when you cook them, like if you pan fry them in a little oil, for instance. Cooked mushrooms will generally have more umami than raw mushrooms. Also, darker mushrooms have more umami than the lighter ones. I would choose cremini mushrooms over white mushrooms for this very reason. Portabello mushrooms are simply bigger versions of cremini mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms are very flavourful but are usually a bit more expensive. When you add mushrooms to your recipe, you will certainly add to the umami content of the dish. This is why dishes such as chilli and even soups are often so much more flavourful when mushrooms are added. Mushroom powder is available just to add umami to cooking.
Mushrooms can stand alone as a dish. But I’ve included a recipe here from Andy’s Great Little Tempeh Cookbook which combines tempeh and mushroom. A delectable match that is very high in umami!
Tempeh Mushroom Stew
1/2 block Simply Soybean Tempeh (cubed)
1/8 cup sunflower oil
1 cup onions (diced)
2 cups mushrooms (sliced)
1 cup carrots (sliced)
1 cup potatoes (diced)
2 cups water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
a pinch of sage
Dissolve together: 1/8 cup tapioca starch, 1/4 cup cold water
Saute vegetables in sunflower oil for 3 minutes. Add water and tempeh and simmer for 10 minutes. Add seasonings and stir in dissolved tapioca. Return to a boil and serve with some crusty bread.