Soups

Umami

Umami, the Japanese word for delicious, is the least known in Western popular culture, but has a long tradition in Asian cuisine. Umami is the taste of glutamates, especially monosodium glutamate or MSG. It is characterized as savory, meaty, and rich in flavor. Salmon and mushrooms are foods high in umami. Meat and other animal byproducts are described as having this taste. Umami /ummi/, a savory taste, is one of the five basic tastes, together with sweet, sour, bitter and salty. A loanword from the Japanese (), umami can be translated "pleasant savory taste". This particular writing was chosen by Professor Kikunae Ikeda from umai (?) "delicious" and mi (?) "taste". The kanji are used for a more general meaning to describe a food as delicious. The human tongue has receptors for L-glutamate, which is the source of umami flavor. For that reason, scientists consider umami to be distinct from saltiness. Scientists debated whether umami was a basic taste ever since Kikunae Ikeda proposed its existence in 1908. In 1985, the term umami was recognized as the scientific term to describe the taste of glutamates and nucleotides at the first Umami International Symposium in Hawaii. Umami represents the taste of the amino acid L-glutamate and 5Т-ribonucleotides such as guanosine monophosphate (GMP) and inosine monophosphate (IMP). It can be described as a pleasant "brothy" or "meaty" taste with a long lasting, mouthwatering and coating sensation over the tongue. The sensation of umami is due to the detection of the carboxylate anion of glutamate in specialized receptor cells present on the human and other animal tongues. Its effect is to balance taste and round out the overall flavor of a dish. Umami enhances the palatability of a wide variety of foods. Glutamate in acid form (glutamic acid) imparts little umami taste; whereas the salts of glutamic acid, known as glutamates, can easily ionize and give the characteristic umami taste. GMP and IMP amplify the taste intensity of glutamate. [edit]Discovery of umami taste Kikunae Ikeda Glutamate has a long history in cooking. Fermented fish sauces (garum), rich in glutamate, were already used in ancient Rome. In the late 1800s, chef Auguste Escoffier, who opened restaurants in Paris, created meals that combined umami with salty, sour, sweet and bitter tastes. He did not know the chemical source of this unique quality, however. Umami was first scientifically identified in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda, a professor of the Tokyo Imperial University. He found that glutamate was responsible for the palatability of the broth from kombu seaweed. He noticed that the taste of kombu dashi was distinct from sweet, sour, bitter and salty and named it umami. Professor Shintaro Kodama, a disciple of Ikeda, discovered in 1913 that dried bonito flakes contained another umami substance. This was the ribonucleotide IMP. In 1957, Akira Kuninaka realized that the ribonucleotide GMP present in shiitake mushrooms also conferred the umami taste. One of Kuninaka's most important discoveries was the synergistic effect between ribonucleotides and glutamate. When foods rich in glutamate are combined with ingredients that have ribonucleotides, the resulting taste intensity is higher than the sum of both ingredients. This synergy of umami explains various classical food pairings, starting with why Japanese make dashi with kombu seaweed and dried bonito flakes, and continuing with various other dishes: the Chinese add Chinese leek and cabbage to chicken soup, as in the similar Scottish dish of cock-a-leekie soup, and the Italians combine Parmesan cheese on tomato sauce with mushrooms.