Sunday, November 6, 2011

Vegemite, Marmite, and Promite

If you're Australian, you may feel loyalty to Vegemite over all other yeast spreads (even though it's owned by Kraft, an American company).

If you're not Australian, it may be a complete mystery to you.

I find both of these statements completely understandable.

I like Vegemite (very much) but it is an odd looking substance. I do also wonder how the idea of creating a 'concentrated yeast extract' first came about. As we saw in this post, Vegemite was first created in Australia in 1922. The English Marmite has been around since 1902 and Cenovis, a Swiss version, since 1933. That's quite a long history for a collection of vegetable spreads that, generally speaking, one either loves or hates.

I grew up with Vegemite and Promite, the latter being a somewhat milder version of Vegemite that is also Australian (but owned by Mars...). In my I-only-want-this-on-my-sandwich-every-day-for-3-months primary school days, Vegemite was a frequent favourite. I liked Promite for variety though, and also enjoyed English Marmite on our English holidays.

A month or so ago, I realised that I couldn't fully recall the flavours of Promite or Marmite. As I don't eat a lot of plain bread / toast / plain crackers, so well suited to being spread with spreads, I tend to have Vegemite only a few times a month. This means that there's not a lot of room for routinely rotating through alternatives, and it's been years since I tried the other options.

I thus decided to do a taste test. First, though, I had to work through the confusing differences between English and Australian Marmite.

I wanted the English Marmite, obviously, in order to bring back my faded English memories. The only problem is that in Australia, English Marmite is called Our Mate.



This is because Sanitarium bought the rights to the Australian and New Zealand distribution of Marmite in 1908, and they have modified the product somewhat over time. The original (English) Marmite now differs to the Sanitarium Marmite, but the original version can't be called Marmite in Australia because the Sanitarium product holds the name.

I know. It's all very confusing.

After we tracked down the English Marmite in the foreign food section of Coles, I roped Mr Bite into being my blind taste tester and we journeyed into the land of black salty spreads.


He did his taste testing off crackers, whereas I used a spoon. Frankly, I wouldn't really recommend the spoon approach, but I did at least get an untainted taste experience. 

I also drank a lot of water between tastes.

Promite



Promite has a considerably longer ingredient list than Vegemite, as well as more sugar (18.5 g / 100 g vs. 2.2 g / 100 g), and this is evident in both the taste and the smell. It's sweeter and mellower - like a mild version of Vegemite.

Mr Bite hadn't tasted Promite before, but as he'd had both Vegemite and (English) Marmite he was able to accurately identify it. His description was "fruity, with more flavours than Vegemite". He didn't exactly dislike it, but he did indicate he would be unlikely to have it again.

I agreed with his description - there is definitely a depth of flavour that the other spreads don't have - and found it considerably less intense than either Vegemite or (English) Marmite. I imagine it would be a good starter for people who haven't tried yeast spreads.





(English) Marmite


You'll notice that I am persisting in calling this Marmite, even if the jar says something else. Our Mate just makes me giggle.

The ingredient lists starts off looking like Vegemite, but after the initial yeast extract and salt, it branches out to list 'vegetable extract' and 'spice extract', in contrast to Vegemite's 'malt extract' and 'flavours'. 


In truth, they are quite similar. Mr Bite described Marmite as stronger, and I would fully agree - but that's the only real difference either of us could put into words. The flavours also vary slightly, but the main contrast is intensity. 

Oddly, despite the stronger flavour, the appearance of this is almost runny. It isn't (the spread below is actually quite thick) but it certainly has a lighter look to it.


Marmite is probably not for the faint hearted. It's also most definitely better off a cracker than off a spoon.


Vegemite



Vegemite. Breakfast of champions, source of Vitamin B, and linked in my mind with old-fashioned children with rosy cheeks singing in ads.

When trying to describe the flavour of Vegemite, though, I realised that I actually can't. It's easy to compare it to other things (stronger than Promite, less intense than Marmite) but not to put its taste into words.




Salty, strong, intense, yeasty...the combination of those things is unimaginable until you take a bite. I could compare it to nutritional yeast, for someone who has tried that and not Vegemite, but Vegemite has a certain something that makes it stand out.




Mr Bite and I concurred that it was similar to Marmite, but better, and that Promite is in a different category altogether. Not a bad category, just a different one.

Mr Bite concluded his testing by announcing that he will be sticking with Vegemite, thus leaving me with two jars of yeast spread to slowly work my way through. Just not with a spoon.

Do you like Vegemite? Any favourite uses? How about other yeast extract spreads?

32 comments:

  1. This is a topic that I find fascinating partly because I found myself switching allegiances from vegemite to promite as a student - though I can still eat vegemite at a pinch - I wrote a post about it with some recipe ideas - I highly recommend using yeast extracts as flavour enhancers in stews etc - I put some my dal last week - and I used to love vegemite and walnut sandwiches - we go through a lot of promite but I was concerned when I bought it last week that there was only a few jars - hope they are not phasing it out - I love it too much!

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  2. oops I meant to give you the url of my promite post http://gggiraffe.blogspot.com/2008/05/promoting-promite.html - hope you don't mind the recommendation

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  3. I love Vegemite - I have made Vegemite Scrolls and love toasted vegemite and cheese sandwiches - comfort food at its best!

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  4. wow...sounds very interesting..
    first time here...love your space Kari..
    awesome posts with nice presentation..
    Am your happy follower now..;)
    do stop by mine sometime..
    Tasty Appetite

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  5. I have to admit.. the sound of a yeasty, salty, savory spread does not appeal to me. I wouldn't buy it, but I would try it if given the chance at a party or something!

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  6. LOVE me my vegemite! And the Aussie marmite actually :)

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  7. As you hopefully gathered from my comment on your post, I'm thrilled you shared the link - thank you :)

    I'm also quite thrilled to discover someone else who likes promite! There seem to be few of us around, although perhaps I'm just not surveying widely enough. I hope they're not phasing it out either!

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  8. I still need to try making my own Vegemite Scrolls. It's on the to do list!

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  9. Thanks Jay :) I'm thrilled you stopped by and am looking forward to discovering your blog too.

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  10. Hehe, yes, I imagine it would be an odd concept at first thought! I hope you get the chance to give it a go one day - a party would be the perfect opportunity although I'm not sure how frequently it turns up in American settings.

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  11. Ah, interesting! I haven't actually tried the Australian marmite. I considered doing so for this post but thought I should put some limit on how many yeast spreads I have on the go at once :P I'll try it out once I exhaust this supply (so, probably in a year or so...!).

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  12. I'm a vegemite girl, never leave home without it - quite literally when I travel overseas for extended times. We were very grateful of that when we went to South America where breakfast = sugar. EVERYTHING classed as breakfast food includes sugar, it gets too much very quickly.

    I remember one particular day in Argentina where we had miraculously found some unsweetened bread. We were eating it with vegemite when one of the cleaning staff asked us what it was. We tried to explain with our non-existant Spanish, but in the end she just tried it. No doubt she would have been expecting something sweet, so the expression on her face was just priceless.

    I don't think anything cures a hangover or a cold like vegemite toast soldiers.

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  13. At the moment, I like crumbling up cold firm tofu and mixing it with Vegemite and nooch. Snack/dinner/lunch of champions!

    Vegemite all the way. Only. Always. The runny texture of the Marmite makes my stomach twitch.

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  14. That is such a funny story :D I wonder if she thought it was chocolate?! Hehehehe. I wouldn't cope with that sort of breakfast fare either, so the packed vegemite was certainy wise!

    Also, I also like vegemite toast soldiers when sick :)

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  15. It made my stomach twitch too :/ Especially as the runny appearance didn't match the thickness in reality, leading one to inadvertently take too much.

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  16. Vegemite. Nothing else comes close for me. I'll happily slap it on quite thick, but.... not with a spoon dear girl :-)
    Mr Chocolate would rather eat mud pies than vegemite. Funny man.

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  17. Yes, I learnt my lesson about the spoon :P

    Funny man indeed regarding Mr Chocolate. Although I suppose his name gives some indication of where his tastes lie, and they're not in the salty camp...

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  18. I was a Vegemite girl all my life until switching to Sanitarium Marmite about a year ago. I made the change because Marmite is fortified with Iron and B12 and I wanted an extra daily boost without taking a supplement. It only took a few days for my taste buds to adapt and now I prefer the texture as it is heaps easier to spread on toast.

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  19. That is actually really useful to know - thank you. Iron is something I'm quite conscious of trying to get enough of so it may be enough to prompt me to switch too. Clearly I really do need to add it to my list of options!

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  20. I loathed (NZ) Marmite, so much that my housemates would sometime switch my vegemite toast with theirs with marmite to see if I noticed. I did, every time. When I lived in the UK I ate Promite. But after a look at those ingredients I wouldn't touch it. According to the food additive guide (http://nac.allergyforum.com/additives/index.html) those 600 numbers in it are rather dodgy.

    I think none of them are health foods, despite the claims of added vitamins. Just how much do you have to put on your toast to get a therapeutic dose? The amount of salt you'd consume would give you a heart attack first!

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  21. Yes, I was unhappily surprised to see the Promite ingredient list. I'm sure it doesn't need to be that long!

    I hadn't thought of them as health foods, but I suppose companies will always play off vitamin claims. Fortunately, I find the saltiness enough to put me off having much, so I don't think I'd manage to get to the therapeutic dose even if I wanted to :P

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  22. Tastes like ear wax

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  23. I have only ever tried Marmite but I don't eat it as a spread. Rather I love adding it to soups and stews. It adds a beefy flavour imo.

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    1. It definitely does - you're spot on :)

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  24. I'm one of those rare Americans who has both tried and liked Vegemite! Whenever I discuss it with others who have tried it (whether they like it or not) I have described it as similar to "ultra-concentrated soy sauce." And, others generally agree. I actually think that people with soy allergies might do well using a pinch of this in place of soy sauce in some recipes : )

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    1. Yay (that you liked it)! It is like ultra-concentrated soy sauce, I suppose because it is so salty. It has never occurred to me to put it in place of soy sauce but that is a good idea!

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  25. For me it's Promite all the way.

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  26. I have eaten marmite and vegemite most of my life and like them both very much - I have always eaten everything put on the table, with not an allergy to any kind of food ever - that is, until I was given a jar of Promite to try and I had a violent reaction to it, vomited for three hours. I tried it again 3 weeks later, and I vomited for four hours. I think the yeast must be disagreeing with me. Definitely not food poisoning.

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  27. Having eaten all three (except the Aussie Marmite, "Our Mate"), and being another of those rare Americans who LIKES them, I have to say that I'd pick Promite as my favorite, followed by Vegemite. It's so expensive to get here in the US, and Promite is non-existent on shelves where tiny jars of Vegemite exist, that I have to make a jar last a long time when I do get it. Love it, though, and probably because I do love sweets and it is sweeter than Vegemite, for sure. I love it in stir fry dishes, in grilled cheese sandwiches, in my eggs, with lots of other things, too. I've used it as a soy sauce substitute to great taste! I'm lucky in that an Aussie friend is shipping me two large jars of Promite this week!

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  28. I love the taste of Vegemite, I like to use it as a substitute for salt in savoury baking (Bread, scones et cetera), and as an addition to fruit smoothies, it adds a depth of flavour which you cannot get from Salt alone.

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  29. I wonder if it's like James Bond actors - your first is your favourite?! I'm from the UK, so Marmite came 1st. I tried vege with an open mind, but was so disappointed that it seemed so much weaker, like when you accidentally mix the Marmite with the margarine to make a light brown paste (my sister still hasn't forgiven me for doing that, btw!). I suspect you need to vary the amounts to get the same results, thoudh i.e less Marmite, more Vegemite. For me, Marmite is perfect when used sparingly on toast, so you don't get too much salt, and a jar lasts ages!

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  30. Promite is number one for me. I was bought up on Vegemite sandwiches though my school days as my mother had no idea how to create good school and inventive school lunches .
    However i still keep a jar of Vegemite in my cupboard Especially for overseas guests) and i always take a tube of Vegemite overseas just as a reminder of my Aussiness .

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