Tuesday, November 29, 2011

oo-MAH-mee or Umami

About a week ago my husband (Eric) and I were watching the Food Network when the word umami was mentioned. This was something Eric had never heard before and a concept he just can't seem to wrap his head around. Everyday he's asked another of our friends and family if they know about umami, and if so they can explain it in their own words.

Here's the deal on umami. In 1908 a Tokyo Imperial University researcher identified this fifth taste and called it Umami. Umami has no exact word to translate into the English language, which is perhaps why Eric has had such difficult time understanding what makes something umami.  Kikunae Ikeda determine that this new taste could be created by adding glutamic acid (glutimate) and thus MSG (commonly found in Asian food) was developed. This intensifies sweet and salty flavors to balance out the sour and bitter. 

In the Eastern world when something is describes as umami it usually means it possesses a savory or delicious quality, which makes us want to eat more of it. It's almost the combination of all the flavor together that produce this fifth sense. It's really more of a sensation than a definitive taste.  Things that can be describes as umami include anchovies, aged cheese, fish sauce, cured meats, wine and mushrooms. 

Additional umami rich foods: 

  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Sauerkraut
  • Beer
  • Red Wine
  • Pickled herring
  • Broths and stocks
  • Roquefort cheese
  • Corn
  • Potatoes
  • Asparagus
  • Ketchup
Sharon Tyler Herbst & Ron Herbst, The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion: (New York: Barron's, 2009) 449

1 comment:

  1. A very well written piece that really helped me to understand Umami and the foods that can be described as being Umami...thanks for sharing Jaime!


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