The human tongue can identify five basic tastes; sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness and umami. Out of the basic tastes, umami is the one that fascinates me the most. Umami is often described as to have a savoury, brothy and meaty taste. The taste can be found in foods such as tomatoes, mushrooms, soy sauce, grains and beans. Umami is not particularly palatable by itself; therefore it is mainly used to round the total flavour of a dish. As mentioned before, one of the foods that are really rich in umami are mushrooms. Among the mushrooms, one of the strongest umami-flavours comes from the shitake mushroom.
I accidentally found this week’s recipe (or experiment) a few weeks ago. I must admit that it sounded a bit too good to be true at first glance. Though, I decided to give it a go, and truth be told, I was blown away! It really does taste like bacon! The secret is in the roasting and dehydration of the shitakes, which concentrates the umami, making it taste just like bacon. This is a perfect low fat, low calorie and cruelty-free alternative to animal-derived bacon.
230g shitake mushrooms, sliced thin and preferably de-stemmed
3-4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
To make Bacon: Preheat oven to 175C°. In a bowl combine the mushrooms, oil, and salt. Spread mushrooms on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place in oven. Roast mushrooms until dry and crisp, stirring about every 10 minutes, approximately 45 minutes to one hour. Make sure to keep an eye on the mushrooms since they burn quickly!
The bacon can be used as a garnish for salads, soups, pastas and stews. However, make sure to add the mushrooms just before serving, as they do tend to soften quickly. Feel free to add a few drops of liquid smoke for a more intense smoky flavour before roasting.