Food is essential to human survival. It gives us nourishment and sustainable energy to get through the day and is a big part of our culture. Not only is food a basic human need, but it is also an art and a science. I have always loved to learn more about how different compounds and elements can add flavors and enhance our taste buds. We all know the four basic tastes; sour, sweet, salty and bitter. Preview main points:However, there is a 5th taste that is “Umami” which does not fall into any one of the taste regions, but is a combination of all of them.
Today, we are going to take a closer look into the rich history of umamis beginnings, the scientific breakdown of the different elements and how you can apply umami cooking methods into your daily life. Umami means savory or “delicious” in Japanese. The word originated from Japan when it was discovered by a professor in Tokyo, Kikunae Ikeda in 1908.
He discovered the Umami sensation when his wife added kombu kelp to his favorite cucumber soup. He began digging deeper into the science and found that foods containing glutamate, an amino acid are what trigger this mouth-watering sensation. Glutamate is found naturally in many foods such as tomatoes, walnuts, mushrooms and meat. It’s also present in many food ingredients such as soy sauce and MSG (monosodium glutamate). In fresh produce, it is present as Glutamic acid but becomes salty through cooking, drying, curing, fermenting.
Now, all of those words may seem like a foreign language to you and you may even have a hard time understanding why this is relevant to you. However, as I mentioned earlier, food is essential to human survival and development as it is present in amniotic fluid and breast milk. As you can see, we are we hardwired to recognize umami from an early age, but we also have umami receptors on the tongue and in our stomachs so that we can recognize protein rich foods. Our dependency on umami also follows us into our old age as it is crucial for our oral and overall health. In a recent study by BMC research group, they found that a group of elderly patients who were experiencing appetite and weight loss became increasingly hungry and more attentive when given kelp tea.
These chemical and physical reactions that happen sometimes go unnoticed in our bodies, but we have some key giveaways when we eat an umami rich food. Our mouths begin to when we smell, see or even talk about food. Some ways to boost umami in your cooking would be to :cook low and slow, sear your meats and vegetables, reheat your leftovers.
These chemical and physical reactions that happen sometimes go unnoticed in our bodies, but we have some key giveaways when we eat an umami rich food. Our mouths begin to when we smell, see or even talk about food.