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For the future of meat, food tech startups look under mushrooms

November 30, 2022

At a special dinner earlier this month, acclaimed chef Srijith Gopinathan served gnocchi with pine nuts, smoked kebabs and a Thai stir-fry with fragrant basil. There was one common ingredient tying all these dishes together: Mamu, a new alternative protein based on the roots of fungi. 

“You can take this and create pretty much anything,” said Nirmal Nair, CEO of Sempera Organics, the Morgan Hill startup behind Mamu

Unlike many plant-based alternatives to meat, which typically use a combination of grains, legumes and vegetables, Mamu is one of a number of new vegan proteins to draw on mycelium. Less well-known than mushrooms, the fruiting bodies of fungi that live above ground, networks of mycelium grow below the surface — and backers argue their fibrous structure and rich flavor lend itself well to the task of meat imitation.

“You don’t have to work hard to make Mamu taste good because of the simple fact that mushrooms are full of umami,” said Gopinathan, who earned two Michelin stars at San Francisco’s Taj Campton Place. Diners can now try Mamu, which also contains chickpeas, canola oil and mushrooms, at his Palo Alto restaurant Ettan, and soon at Little Blue Door in Los Altos and Oxford Kitchen & Gastropub in Sunnyvale. Read more:

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