Boy did that not work.
I attempted to make the fake egg sauce from my last post, according to the recipe. That recipe calls for 1 cup water, 4 tsp. corn starch, 3/4 tsp. black salt (kala namak), 2 tsp. nutritional yeast, 2 tbsp. neutrally-flavored oil, and 1/4 tsp. turmeric. The mixture is heated to reduce it and cause the corn starch to thicken it up.
Overall I made two batches, and made an adjustment to the second batch, for three sub-experiments. None of them were completely successful, but I believe they’re on the right track. The texture was absolutely perfect, but I found flavor to be the sticking point. (Mind you I read a lot of reviews of the original recipe claiming this tasted just like egg yolk, but for me it fell too far short. Apparently going vegan ruins your taste buds.)
For my first attempt, I mixed the ingredients as directed, but I substituted 2 tbsp. duck fat for the oil. In place of turmeric, I added 6 drops of yellow food coloring. Then I did something stupid and added a drop of red, which was way too much. Lesson learned: no more red. The yellow looked good.
The smell of the mixture while reducing was strange, and unfortunately that quality made its way into the final taste. There was an unpleasant “overcooked” flavor to the mix, which came entirely from the nutritional yeast. I tasted some of the yeast plain, and it has a sort of cereal-like flavor; it was good, but not necessarily suited to an egg yolk substitute. Whether that overcooked flavor was always there entirely or whether it was brought out more by heating the mixture, I’m not sure, but it was unsubtle and off-putting. However, underneath it there was a solid savory note that did work.
Worse, though, the sulfur flavor from the black salt was absolutely overpowering. Clearly 3/4 tsp. is way too much.
I started over and dropped the black salt to a mere 1/4 tsp. In addition to the nutritional yeast, I added 1/8 tsp. of MSG, hoping it would round out the flavor and soften the harsh edges of the yeast. This time I also used some light-flavored olive oil, because I wasn’t about to waste more of my good duck fat.
At first I thought this was too little black salt, but the more obvious problem was that although the MSG helped, the yeast’s overcooked flavor came out stronger than before.
At this point I added more water, another 1/4 tsp. of black salt, and another 1/8 tsp. of MSG. This was to simulate using less nutritional yeast while keeping everything else roughly the same as when I started the batch.
This didn’t work at all. If anything the black salt was too strong again, but the yeast flavor was not improved.
It’s clear to me now that the big problem here is nutritional yeast. It could be the brand I’m using, but honestly I really doubt that. More likely, any brand will have that same background flavor. Using turmeric as directed could not have helped this. Adding an earthy, almost dirt-like flavor would only compound the problem.
Since the point of the nutritional yeast is for the strong umami flavoring, I think this recipe would benefit by replacing it with something else. MSG was part of the solution but I don’t think it can do all the heavy lifting on its own. My thinking is, either a mushroom powder or actual Parmesan cheese would fix this: perhaps a blend of both.
Black salt is incredibly strong stuff, too. The smell of it hung in the air long afterward, which I have to say was fairly undesirable. But it could simply be because I used so much of it, and that the bottle was freshly opened.
I’m still impressed with the texture of the recipe. When dripping from a whisk it looked just like the real thing. It did tend to congeal after a few minutes, so it would benefit from an emulsifier.
As it stands I don’t think I’ll revisit this before the new year, and therefore won’t be trying again to get it right for my special after-Christmas sandwich. But I don’t want to simply end the experiments. This recipe showed me considerable promise, so I believe replacing the nutritional yeast outright with some mixture of MSG and other savory powders will get close enough to taste right. For now though, further experiments are on hold.