‘Umami’ – The Natural Glutamate, A Food Enhancer

It was in school, where we learned that there are four basic tastes known and they are: sweet, salty, sour and bitter.

There are certain foods, however, which clearly do not belong to these groups, that is the savory tastes of meat, chicken, seafood and certain dairy products.

That is why scientists and food experts around the world are now using the word umami to describe the savory, meaty and mouthful taste sensation.

While umami seems like a new concept in our midst, it has in fact been part of centuries old recipes which we are still using today. Fish sauce, garlic and soy sauce are high in glutamate which is the abundance source of umami.

Ten decades ago, a scientist named Kikunae Ikeda isolated the savory taste of dried seaweed or kumbo and discovered that the source was glutamate.

Ikeda labeled the flavorful taste as umami, after the word “umai” which means delicious in Japanese. Extensive scientific research proved that receptor cells present on the human tongue were highly sensitive to glutamate food in protein rich meat, seafood and cheese.

The action of umami taste receptors explain why foods added with naturally glutamate rich ingredients or mono sodium glutamate (manufactured glutamate) often taste savory and hearty.

Cooks skilled in umami can reduce the fat and salt content of foods without sacrificing flavor.

Doing research and studying how to boost umami taste in everyday cooking can actually be beneficial to the health and well being of every family by allowing a more flavorful and satisfying delivery of essential nutrients in every meal.

By simply adding ingredients rich in glutamate such as cheese, soy sauce, garlic and olive oil, you increase the savoriness of meat, chicken, fish and vegetables.

Another way to layer it into a meal is to combine many kinds of seafood, mushrooms and meat into one dish.

Lastly, cooks can infuse umami into their meals through curing and slow cooking since this process releases the free glutamate and so, the food has more umami taste.

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