Despite what the blue fuzz floating on top of your expired yogurt might suggest, not all mold belongs in the trash. The same spores you see on your four-week-old leftovers are also responsible for some certifiably delicious foods.
Don't get us wrong—we're not saying you should actually make a meal out of the sweaty cheddar that's been sitting in the fridge far too long (that definitely should get tossed). Instead, enjoy these five intentionally fungal-infused (and very much edible) foods.
There's a reason you're shelling out so much for posh rib eyes and succulent filets when dining at fancy steakhouses. As they spend anywhere from one to even four months aging in a controlled environment, a layer of mold develops on the outside of the beef. The meat's natural enzymes combine with the mold (which is later trimmed off) to both tenderize the steak and develop the complex, extra-savory flavors that make fighting for a Valentine's Day reservation well worth the hassle.
Before being fermented into one of our favorite indispensable condiments, cooked soybeans and wheat are left to essentially rot for a few days. The fuzzy, fungus-infused grains, now known as koji, are then allowed to ferment in salt water, where they eventually take on soy sauce's signature dark color.
The term moldy cheese conjures up one of two images: either the half-eaten block of orange cheddar that might no longer be orange or the fantastically funky blues cheese heads can't get enough of. Varieties like Gorgonzola and Roquefort, which get their distinctive veining from mold that's added directly to the cheese curds, are the most famous examples, but even crowd-friendly Brie gets its signature velvety rind from—you guessed it—mold.
Ever wonder why your favorite cured meats come powder-dusted in white sleeves? The harm-free spores on the outside of your salami aid in the curing process by not only helping to develop robust flavor but also fending off any bad bacteria that can cause spoilage. (And, yes, you can eat the sleeve.)
To make this popular meat-free substitute and Indonesian pantry staple, soybeans are inoculated with mold spores before being left to ferment. As the mold grows rapidly, it wraps around the soybeans and binds them together into a meaty, dense cake.
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