What's the best umami recipe

umami: This taste makes food delicious

Sweet, sour, salty, bitter and ... umami. What sounds like an Asian dish is actually a flavor. Even if this taste, which is also described as hearty, delicious, savory and meaty, has probably always existed, it has not been known for too long. We explain to you what umami exactly is and how it can be produced.

The 5th taste: what exactly is umami?

Our tongue knows four, no, actually five flavors: sweet, salty, sour, please and umami. The latter has not been known for too long. The taste was discovered in 1908 by the Japanese chemist Ikeda Kikunae. While spooning a soup with kombu (a type of seaweed), he found that it did not correspond to any of the four previously known flavors.

So he examined the soup more closely in the laboratory and discovered the glutamic acid it contained. It is an amino acid - a protein building block - that creates the special taste. He called it umami, which means something like tasty, delicious and spicy.

It wasn't until almost 100 years, namely in 2000, that the taste receptors that match the umami taste were found in the mouth by scientists at the Miami School of Medicine discovered. Since then umami has officially been one of the flavors.

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What foods are umami?

The amino acid responsible for the umami taste, or the salt glutamate it contains, occurs naturally in protein-rich foods such as meat, fish (especially anchovies), Parmesan and other types of cheese. But (dried) tomatoes, mushrooms and soy sauce also contain glutamic acid. Umami only really unfolds through cooking, stewing, drying or fermenting. Think, for example, of a long-boiled chicken broth or a fish stock - doesn't that taste wonderfully hearty and soothing?

Perhaps the bells have already rang for you when you heard the term "glutamate". It's exactly what we don't want in the food in an Asian restaurant. In fact, Ikeda Kikunae, the discoverer of the umami taste, patented the industrially produced variant of glutamate, which is known as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and which is used as a flavor enhancer in restaurants and ready-made meals.

This is how the umami taste can be created in the kitchen

However, glutamate does not have to be synonymous with ready-made foods and manufactured goods. You can easily create the taste yourself while cooking. On the one hand, of course, by using foods containing glutamate, such as meat, fish, cheese, (dried) mushrooms, dried tomatoes, dried olives, braised garlic and onions in the kitchen. On the other hand, by giving these ingredients time during cooking to develop the umami taste. Stews, stews, goulash, broth dishes, such as Japanese ramen noodle soup, are true umami dishes.

You can also use condiments rich in glutamate, such as miso paste, soy sauce, fish sauce, tomato paste or tomato powder, to enhance the umami note. And by using a good stock as a base for soups and sauces, you also ensure umami.

Conclusion on umami: Simply delicious

Umami is much more subtle as a taste than the more familiar sweet, sour, salty, and bitter flavors. At the same time, taste buds differ from person to person, so that an umami note does not taste equally intense in everyone. Nevertheless, the taste notes "delicious", "beneficial" and "spicy" can easily find their way onto the plate more often - for example in the form of a homemade chicken noodle soup or a beef bourguignon.

By the way, researchers assume that there are other taste receptors on the tongue. So we can stay excited to see what the world of flavors will reveal in the future. Until then, we finally have the following tip for you: Eat slowly and enjoy, this is the most natural flavor enhancer of all!

Discover the full world of spices and flavors on our Spices topic page. You will also find plenty of inspiration for recipes with an umami touch on our stew-themed page.