Mushroom walnut “pate” – an ingenious substitute for animal-based pate

As long as I can remember, I have loved Vietnamese pate. I also love French pate (of course), but I’ve been eating Vietnamese pate since before I even knew what pate was. It was always a crucial ingredient that makes up the delicious key fixings of banh mi. Banh mi really isn’t quite the same without that creamy, extremely umami component. So I was curious when I was reading Andrea Nguyen’s vegetable-forward, plant-based cookbook called Ever-Green Vietnamese, where she has a very popular recipe for mushroom walnut pate. To start, you have some oil or butter that you heat up in a saute pan. You add chopped cremini mushrooms, chopped walnuts, minced shallots, and you saute until everything is beautifully browned and fragrant. Then, you add a touch of five-spiced powder, some salt and pepper, and a dash of Maggi seasoning; allow the mixture to cool, then blitz it all in a food processor. And in that short time, some real magic happens: the mushroom mixture gets extremely fragrant and umami and creamy to the point where the taste and texture of this mixture truly, truly does mimic real animal-based pate. When I smelled it after pureeing, I knew it had promise. But once I actually put a small spoonful in my mouth, I felt completely floored: this is really a legit substitute for meat pate!! The texture is moussy and meaty with a creamy mouth feel. The flavor is rich and luxurious. It’s what Australians call “moreish.”

Vegetables and legumes have a lot of power and potential, but it’s up to us to find creative ways to use and apply them, especially in a world where obesity and heart disease are on the rise, and a huge part of climate change is due to our unsustainable levels of meat consumption. This mushroom walnut pate is likely one of the most ingenious meat substitutes I’ve ever tasted in my life. If you leave out the butter (I used it this time, but next time, I’ll use olive oil), it’s even 100 percent vegan. I served it for brunch with friends this afternoon, and I will honestly say that it was probably the best thing that was on the table.

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