Today is all about taste and what's known as "The Fifth Flavor," Umami. Huh, you say? You've heard of Sweet, Salty, Sour, Bitter, but….Umami? While many of you may not be familiar with the phrase, but accomplished chefs around the world, more and more, make Umami the focus of their cuisine. Many specialists now understand that taste is actually more complicated, with the taste buds being helped along by sense of smell, by the feel of substances in the mouth and even by the noise that food makes when we chew it. This newly found taste for a while was almost unexplainable and a bit of a mystery. But in the early 1900s, Dr. Kikunae Ikeda of the Tokyo
|Dr. Kikunae Ikeda|
|Photo: Mimi Oka and Doug Fitch|
Taste and flavor are commonly associated as one in the same, but there is a definite distinction between the two. It is said that taste is the sensation caused in the mouth by contact with a substance, while flavor is the mixed sensation of both smell and taste. To simplify this research, it would be safe to say that the formula of taste + smell = flavor. Umami as an ingredient, becomes a flavor enhancer, bringing depth to your food without covering any flavors or subtle tastes. It is found in more mature foods such as an older Parmesan cheese, aged wine, or soy sauce.
Umami rich foods are very satisfying and can actually be a healthier way to cook as well. They tend to make salt taste saltier, which means we can lower the amount of sodium in a dish when using Umami rich ingredients. It also creates a sensation that most chefs call "mouth feel," which is normally associated with the mouth sensation we get when we eat foods high in fat. Thus, we may lower the amount of fat in a dish, and let the richness of the Umami do the trick.
Here is a starter list of a few ingredients that are very Umami rich, and would lend a great deal of taste and flavor to any home cooked meal.
Seafood: fish sauce, anchovies, kombu, nori, dried bonito flakes, makeral, seabream, tuna, cod, prawns, squid, oysters, shellfish.
Meat: beef, pork and chicken.
Other Foods: Parmesan cheese and Green Tea.
In conclusion, the ability to experience this so called, fifth taste, is totally dependent on one’s self awareness. Umami is a very powerful taste and one that I'm sure will be researched and analyzed for years to come and I encourage you to do your own experiments and research. My friends, even though we were all taught otherwise, since the time when we were children, it is time to put aside your mom's admonitions. The only way to become a better cook and be more aware is to play with your food, so get to the store, buy some Umami rich ingredients and start playing and cooking for yourselves!
Sources: www.barmixmaster.com , www.glutamate.org , www.stratfordbar.com , www.burtfamilybutchers.co.uk