I love sandwiches and I love mayonnaise. It’s a win-win situation. I bought the condiment for years abut while writing The Banh Mi Handbook, I spent about a month working on different recipes – from regular and eggless (vegan) to Sriracha and umami mayonnaise. Making mayo from scratch is utterly easy. Moreover, homemade mayonnaise takes between 30 seconds and 2 minutes to blend. Plus, you can use fresh ingredients and create new renditions. This week, I revisited an umami mayonnaise recipe that I developed in 2014 as an exclusive for banh mi book fans (yup, there will be special content and giveaways for the upcoming Vietnamese Food Any Day so sign up for that newsletter to stay posted).
For bursts of savory goodness, the original umami mayonnaise recipe used an unusual ingredient – fish sauce salt, the salt harvested from the fish sauce production process. I got a bag of it from Cuong Pham, the owner of Red Boat Fish Sauce. It’s a naturally produced product that’s moderately salty and pungent with the fragrance of fermented fish. I know, it’s a little strange to wrap your head around. I’ve learned to use it with caution because it expresses itself over time. It’s impact on food is not immediate so patience is needed when using it.
I don’t use Red Boat salt like regular salt. I think of it like a cross between salt and MSG. It adds a subtle savoriness to food. For example, I shower a bit on the protein when building banh mi, include it with other seasonings when prepping and cooking, and I also use it to make this very good mayo that’s akin to my version of Japanese Kewpie mayo. The mayo does wonders for sandwiches but is also great as dip. Heck, I often lick it off the spatula.
Since Red Boat salt isn’t widely available, after making a batch of the umami mayonnaise, I wondered about substitutes. It’s a matter of sourcing the umami burst. I turned to my favorites – MSG and nutritional yeast (“nooch”). (For more on MSG, read this post.)
Within minutes, I had 3 kinds of umami mayonnaise to taste. The three kinds of umami mayonnaises were similarly good but different.
Mayonnaise made with the Red Boat salt (marked with “!”) had an elegant quality, with the funky brininess of the fish sauce fading into the background to establish the umami foundation. The nutritional yeast umami mayonnaise (“2”) tasted like the yeast; my husband thought it was great. The MSG mayo (“3”) offered a bright burst of savory-sweetness; I used the same amount of maple syrup in all three batches the one with MSG tasted sweeter than the other two.
The experiment was fascinating as a way to experience how umami can be expressed in food. I don’t expect you to run out and try all three but this recipe offers you options.
Use an umami source that you want:
- Cheffy: Red Boat Salt
- Fearless: MSG + salt
- Healthy-ish: Nutritional Yeast Flakes + salt
The other ingredients are straightforward. I like a grade A maple syrup because it has a more refined flavor; use what you have. I use non-GMO expeller press canola but you can use another neutral oil. If you like olive oil, use a light, mild tasting olive oil (extra virgin olive oil yield a bitter mayonnaise).
My mayonnaise recipes in The Banh Mi Handbook use the food processor and there are instructions for a regular blender, too. For this one, you can use an immersion blender, which takes about 30 seconds to whirl and emulsify all the ingredients into creamy mayonnaise. You don’t have to slowly add the oil. See this video I posted on Instagram.
I don’t use the blender often so the affordable Cuisinart Smart Stick is terrific for me. Whatever immersion blender you use, just remember to find a vessel that the blender fits into (see photo below). It’s easy to clean but makes a mayonnaise that is denser than what you’d get from a processor because there’s less air worked into the emulsion. (Don’t use the immersion blender for the cilantro Maggi mayonnaise in The Banh Mi Handbook because it does not process the herb well. Use the processor or regular blender for that amazing green mayo.)
So pick your mayo method and umami source. Make umami mayonnaise soon and add it to your summer eating. I’ve got 3 batches to eat up!
And if you’re into banh mi, the ebook version of the book is currently on sale through this week for an incredible deal.
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Yield 1 cup
- 1 large egg, near or at room temperature
- 1 small clove garlic, minced and mashed or put through a garlic press
- 1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon Red Boat salt; rounded 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt plus 1/4 teaspoon MSG; or rounded 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt plus scant 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup, delicate Grade A preferred
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup canola oil or other neutral oil
To make with an immersion blender: Put the egg, garlic, salt, mustard, maple syrup, lemon juice, and oil in a 2-cup container (such as a measuring cup or glass jar) that’s wide enough for the hand-held blender to fit into. Insert the blender to touch the bottom. Blend on high speed to create a creamy, thick emulsion, pulling up the blender as things approaching being fully incorporated to make sure everything is evenly worked into the mixture.
To make with a food processor: Put the egg, garlic, salt, mustard, maple syrup, and lemon juice in the food processor’s work bowl. Start the processor and after a creamy yellow mixture forms, 5 to 10 seconds, start pouring the oil through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream as thin as angel hair pasta. Midway through, after things thicken, pour a thicker stream, as wide as spaghetti. After about 2 minutes, all the oil should be incorporated and the mayo should be creamy and spreadable.
Regardless of method, taste and if needed, adjust with extra salt (savoriness), lemon juice (tang), or water by the teaspoon (softer texture). Blend or pulse to incorporate. Transfer the mayonnaise to an airtight container. Before using, wait 30 minutes to allow the umami depth to develop. This mayonnaise keeps in the refrigerator for at least a week.