NEW ZEALAND: Giving Marmite a fair go

When I was a kid on vacation in New Zealand, I had an encounter with these infamous yeast spreads – I can’t remember if it was Vegemite or Marmite, but between having a kid’s palate and spreading it thick like jam on toast, it didn’t go well. That being said, I grew up to like other “acquired tastes”, like black licorice, pickled herring, or extremely spicy food, so this is a perfect opportunity to give Marmite a fair go and see how I like it as an adult.

There’s two main yeast spreads out there – Vegemite, which is Australian and different in flavour from Marmite, from the UK. However, there is a lesser-exported third – New Zealand Marmite. While UK Marmite is more common globally (it’s now owned by Unilever and I can find it in my local grocery store), NZ Marmite is made by a company called Sanitarium, and has been for about a century. It’s claimed the NZ Marmite is the “gentlest” of the three, so this will be a good on-ramp for me.

My packet of Marmite came with the snacks I ordered from Kiwi Grub Box. I’m going to make it properly this time – spread very thinly on buttered toast.

At first, it’s just intensely salty. But then, there’s a complex, deeply savoury flavour. Something vegetal and earthy, but also reminds me of a really dark soy sauce or black bean paste. However, there’s absolutely nothing even remotely sweet about it. I don’t hate it – it’s actually a really interesting taste, I bet it could add some nice savoury complexity to food. I think I’m going to experiment and try adding a little dollop to gravy or stew, or I could be a complete heathen and try using it instead of Worcestershire in a Caesar.

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