Sunday, April 19, 2009


Umami: the mystery of the fifth taste
It's found in breast milk, Marmite and mushrooms, and the Japanese have known about it for years.
It's not only Japanese chefs who work with umami, a word derived from the Japanese for “delicious”
The simplest explanation?
It makes your mouth water
Isolated as a specific taste in 1908 by a Japanese scientist, Kikunae Ikeda, umami is the savoury taste imparted by glutamate and five ribonucleotides, including inosinate and guanylate, which occur naturally in many foods, including meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products.
To your man in the (Japanese) street, it is the “yum factor”
It stimulates part of the brain that indicates pleasure
You want to eat more and more
We have 380 different smell receptors in the brain, and 50 that detect bitterness alone on the palate.
Our temperature and consistency receptors are innumerable
It is possible to increase the umami level in a dish simply by adding bitterness, aroma and texture.
Umami is not just about deliciousness.

By increasing umami in food you can reduce the amount of cream, butter and oil.
But if you don't have much (or any) dried fish or kombu in your pantry, are there other ways in which to boost umami levels? Answer: yes, plenty.
Parmesan cheese is second only to kombu for chalking up the glutamates and high umami levels can be found in dozens of ingredients, from tomatoes and cured ham to mushrooms.

At the very least, we should always choose a cheeseburger over a regular hamburger.

Ten umami-rich foods
Tomatoes (particularly sun-dried and ketchup)
Wild mushrooms (dried shiitake)
Rich bouillons
Cured and smoked meats
Cheese (particularly Parmesan and ripe blue cheeses)
Fish and shellfish (particularly anchovies and tuna)
Soy sauce
Oriental fish sauces
The Times

1 comment:

Alexandra said...

Very interesting! Umami, never heard of it before!