Four Secret Ingredients to Give Your Scrambled Eggs More Umami

Four Secret Ingredients to Give Your Scrambled Eggs More Umami
Photo: Claire Lower

Like a mother with her children, I have a hard time picking favourites when it comes to egg preparation methods. I love fried eggs. I love boiled eggs. I love poached eggs. I love scrambled eggs. As my esteemed colleague Stephen Johnson has pointed out, cooking eggs can literally teach you how to cook. They truly give us so many gifts.

I’ve been on a bit of a scramble kick recently. I enjoy cooking scrambles because they take well to last minute tweaks and additions: You can dash and sprinkle them with a wide variety of sauces and seasonings, impulsively and without much measuring (my favourite style of cooking).

As you may know, I am a big fan of umami, and that enthusiasm been reflected in my most recent scrambles. Here are a few of the impulsive, last-minute, umami-boosting additions I’ve been playing around with. I hope you give them a try.

Add onion powder for subtle savouriness

On a lark, I added the last bit of onion powder from an almost empty jar, and was rewarded with deeply savoury eggs, with lovely notes of toasted allium. The effect was delicious, but subtle enough to qualify as a “secret ingredient.” You, and anyone else you feed these eggs to, will notice that they taste better, but the yolk tempers the onion so it doesn’t scream “onion powder.” A pinch or two per egg is all you need (depending on how fresh your onion powder is, of course).

Add soy sauce for deep, rich saltiness

Unlike onion powder, soy sauce isn’t subtle. It barges into your scramble screaming “UMAMI” and “SALT,” and honestly your eggs are the better for it. Just a splash adds dark saltiness and a touch of fermented umami that punctuates the richness of the egg. I prefer to do a low and slow scramble when soy sauce is involved; sometimes I add a little mirin for sweetness.

Melt anchovies into the butter for deep, decadent minerality

This move is slightly more involved than the previous two, but worth it. Anchovies have a reputation for being “too fishy,” but they melt and meld into butter to create an umami-packed, mineral-forward cooking fat that almost makes your scramble a little too decadent for a weekday morning.

Start with a ratio of one anchovy filet for every two tablespoons of butter. Melt the butter over medium heat, then add the anchovies, mashing them with a wooden spoon until they disintegrate. Add your eggs and scramble as usual. (Don’t want to go through all that? Add a few dashes of fish sauce, or whisk in some shrimp paste.)

Add MSG for a pure glutamate boost

Monosodium gluatamate is a crystalized salt of sodium and glutamate, and glutamate is one tasty amino acid — it’s what give parmesan cheese its nutty, savoury character, the reason ripe tomatoes taste so good, and why meat tastes meaty. A few shakes of MSG adds pure umami and not much else, and that’s great if you want to taste mostly egg, but you wish those eggs were a touch more savoury.

   

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