Berkeley-based start-up, Prime Roots, has created fungi-based bacon. It looks, sounds, and acts like bacon in the frying pan. Does it taste like bacon?
Bringing Home the Bacon
The search for delicious, meat-free bacon has left Americans discouraged. Bacon is a longtime breakfast staple. The food even transcends our plates with the expression, “bring home the bacon.” Simply put, everyone wants bacon—fried, baked, or otherwise. In the world of alternative meats, however, there are slim pickings.
America Wants Bacon
Bacon substitutes, “fakon,” include turkey, salmon, chicken, tempeh, tofu, coconut, and eggplant. These myriad choices leave Americans confused and disappointed, especially if they’re vegetarian or vegan. Prime Roots’ founders were about to come to market with a “convincing salmon prototype” when they wisely asked consumers what alternative meat their hearts yearned for the most.
Introducing “Funcon”–Fungus Bacon
Move aside soy, pea protein, and other plants. There’s a new meat alternative on the market. Prime Roots uses koji (Aspergillus oryzae) fungus. While not popular in the States, this mold is a Japanese superstar. It’s used to make everything from sake to miso. Could fungi-based bacon be koji’s breakout role in the United States?
Prime Roots: the Story and the Process.
Prime Roots founders, Joshua Nixon and Kimberly Le, met in “Plant-Based Seafood Collider,” a class at the University of California at Berkeley. Students were given an impossible problem to solve: develop alternatives for fish, which is a notoriously difficult meat to replicate. Le thought of the koji fungus. Instead of isolating proteins from plants, she wanted to use this type of fermentation to grow proteins, which actually requires less processing.
The company uses fermentation vats, the same process as brewing beer or sake, to grow the fungi. Nutrients are added to the growing fungi babes; they develop long fibers within days. These fibers help the fungi look and feel like meat. The company adds plant-based fat and flavors, smokes it, and then slices it like real bacon. Upon hitting the pan it sizzles and even shrinks. Unfortunately, according to tasters, “funcon” fell short in terms of mouthfeel and taste.
For those looking for a healthier, protein-packed bacon alternative, “funcon” is for you. If you’re looking for the “I cannot believe it’s not bacon” bacon, you might have to continue your search. Only your own tastebuds will tell you.