Japanese consumers may soon be eating eggs which haven’t been laid by birds, following a new product developed by a Tokyo-based start-up.
Umami United claims to have perfected a cholesterol-free vegan egg replacement which uses konjac powder and enzyme technology to replicate the signature taste of eggs.
Japan has the third-highest egg consumption in the world, with levels only exceeded in China and Mexico. By offering an egg solution which can be eaten by people following animal-free or low-cholesterol diets, the company hopes to “unite all at one table”.
The Umami Egg 2.0 is a powder egg replacement. When mixed with soy milk and heated, it takes on the texture and flavour of scrambled eggs. It can also be used as an ingredient in other ‘eggy’ products and dishes, like custard and eggs on toast, according to the start-up.
Wood ear mushroom is one of the main ingredients used, and its subtle flavour is enhanced by what Umami United calls its “Umami Enhancing Technology”. This technology predominantly uses enzymes.
As well as contributing to the flavour of the vegan egg, wood ear mushrooms do not require sunlight to grow. The start-up uses mushrooms grown in the shade cast by solar panels, thereby making use of sunless land which wouldn’t be suitable for growing produce that require sunlights.
Konjac has been used instead of other texturising ingredients because of its popularity in Japan – one of the start-up’s missions is to celebrate the food of its country of origin. It is also capable of effectively reproducing the properties of eggs.
“We succeeded in utilising the heat coagulation, shape retention, water retention of konjac for the development of plant-based eggs, which has a wide range of uses, such as from side dishes like scrambled eggs and omelettes to confectionery such as cupcakes and sponge cakes,” said the company.
Enzymes are used in place of fermented fungi technology because they impart specific flavours and textures, according to Umami United, whereas fungi tend to break down during the fermentation process.
The start-up expects its vegan egg product to be most popular in the foodservice industry, where it could be sold as an ingredient or added to prepared meals for catering companies. Additionally, Umami United also plans to launch in supermarkets in the future.
Hiroto Yamazaki, CEO of Umami United, said the inspiration for the start-up came from acknowledging “Japan’s delay in responding to food diversity and sustainability” – in particular as an offering suitable to those following a plant-based diet, as well as those with food allergies.
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