Umami Bombs and Miso Rules

Mushrooms and miso help these lettuce wraps punch far above their weight.
Umami Bombs and Miso Rules
Umami bombs are packed with addictive savory flavor. (Lynda Balslev for Tastefood)

These mushroom lettuce wraps are healthy, light, and easy to make in less than 30 minutes. Don’t let their simplicity deceive you: They are umami bombs, which means that they are packed with addictive savory flavor.

Umami is recognized as the fifth primary taste (sweet, sour, salty, and bitter are the others). “Umami” is a Japanese word that loosely translates to “good flavor” and applies to savory, salty, meaty flavors; it’s an inexact yet more-ish quality that makes food delectable. These flavors are enhanced by glutamate, which is an amino acid present in some foods. Two foods that are rich in glutamate are miso and mushrooms, which happen to be key ingredients in this recipe.

Miso is a paste made from fermented soybeans. It’s a complete source of protein, rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Its fermentation process promotes the growth of probiotics and creates amino acids, including glutamic acid. Mushrooms are another umami-rich food, with a natural abundance of glutamate. The combination of these two ingredients brings savory meatiness to these little veggie wraps and will lure you back for second (and third) helpings.

When cooking with miso, it’s important not to boil or overheat the paste. High heat will destroy its probiotics. Add miso into a recipe at the end of cooking to heat. Miso is also very salty, so moderate the salt in any recipe that includes it.

Miso Mushroom Lettuce Wraps

Active time: 15 minutes Total time: 15 minutes, plus rice cooking time

Serves 2 to 4

For the Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons red miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
For the Filling
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 12 ounces shiitake mushrooms, ends trimmed, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, finely diced
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish
  • 1 cup basmati or jasmine rice, cooked per package instructions
  • Little gem lettuce leaves, about 10 to 12
  • Toasted sesame seeds for sprinkling, optional
  • Sriracha sauce for drizzling
Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth.

Prepare the vegetables: Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until they release their juices and begin to brown at the edges, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the celery and carrot and saute until the vegetables brighten in color and are crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the sauce and stir to coat, then remove from the heat. Stir in the scallions and cilantro.

To serve, spoon a little rice in the center of a lettuce leaf. Top with some of the mushroom mixture. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and additional cilantro, if desired, and a squeeze of Sriracha.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her Danish husband, two children, a cat, and a dog. Balslev studied cooking at Le Cordon Bleu Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and worked as a personal chef, culinary instructor, and food writer in Switzerland and Denmark. Copyright 2021 Lynda Balslev. Distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication.
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