• February 26, 2024

There Is No Substitute For Marmite

This is Highly recommended, a column dedicated to what people in the food industry are obsessed with eating, drinking and buying right now.

It was September when I first heard the news. I had stopped at Hiller & Moon, the Brooklyn cheese shop and the grocery store that sells all the British snacks I’ve missed from childhood in London – minty aero bars, crispy twiglets and creamy cadburys. I was there to pick up another glass of salty marmite, but to my dismay the shelves had been searched. That’s when I found out that there is one worldwide shortage of that stuff. You see, Marmite, the toast spread made with love or hate, is an accidental beer-making by-product made from sticky brewer’s yeast. When breweries slowed down due to the pandemic earlier this year, Marmite’s steady flow also came to a standstill.

I can make peace with wild rice if the bodega is from my beloved Basmati. I can accept that I am lactose intolerant and that the oat milk stays. I can specify the number of Cauliflower steaks Instead of meat, I cooked as a useful substitute. But Marmite is unique in its powerful smell; it just cannot be replaced.

Made from yeast, sugar, salt, herbs, spices, and vitamins like B12, it rings all of my umami alarm bells with just one small blow. It’s naturally high in glutamate, which is essentially MSG, that other much misunderstood but really nice salty and savory ingredient. It has the texture of molasses and is best wrung to a spreadable consistency by mashing it with a dose of butter on the side of your plate until it turns a tawny hue. It is then ready to be smeared on a piece of toast. The Sri Lankan side of my family (Sri Lanka is the largest importer from Marmite worldwide, a remnant of colonialism) adds a thin shellac made from orange jam, which gives it a tangy, sweet-bitter smoothness.

But to use it only as a diffusion would misunderstand its full spectrum; it has so much more to offer! I like to stir a teaspoon into one meaty stew or stew to increase the dimension of the flavors (just adjust the salt accordingly). Combine a smidge with butter and mix it into warm noodles topped with a handful of sliced ​​green onions. Lather the chicken before frying or stir in olive oil and drizzle over hearty cruciferous vegetables. What tastes salty straight out of the glass actually adds a complex intensity – think of the mysterious taste bump that anchovies or miso bring with them, or the long-cooked taste of anything that cooks in your glass Casserole all day. Whatever you do, a little goes a long way.

And thank goodness that’s true because I’ve been rationing my glass since that day in September, just in case.

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