If we ask you what are the different flavors of food, the ones that will definitely come to mind are the traditional ones: salty, sour, bitter and sweet. Today we must add to this list umami flavor, one step further in the kitchen and in the enjoyment of most dishes. Want to know what it is?
What is umami?
Known as the fifth flavor, umami is the least known flavor of all but, paradoxically, one of the most abundant in the dishes that make up your diet. Its name comes from Japanese and means “pleasant or delicious flavor.”
Umami is a unique combination of flavors that can’t be identified with one in particular and has three very special characteristics:
- It doesn’t have the ability to satiate
- It increases the secretion of saliva
- It stimulates hunger
Umami flavor corresponds to that of glutamic acid, an amino acid present in the proteins of many foods, which they release during cooking or fermentation. When our taste buds come into contact with this amino acid, we perceive umami.
This flavor is not only pleasant on the palate, it also helps enhance the flavor of other foods. That’s why foods rich in umami are used in many recipes.
The perception of the fifth flavor
We can all recognize the taste of umami, although it’s tough to define it because of the lack of specific vocabulary in our language to explain it. In addition, we must bear in mind that one needs to discover the sensations it causes little by little to learn how to distinguish it effectively.
One of the most important characteristics of umami is that it is a flavor of great intensity, which remains in the mouth for a long time. Therefore, you can taste it even after you’ve eaten the food.
Also, like the other classic flavors, umami is perceived in a specific part of the tongue. Different studies have shown that its specific taste receptors are found in the central part of the tongue while, for example, the sweet flavor is felt at the tip of the tongue.
Not all foods have this flavor naturally. In these cases, its flavor can be enhanced by adding monosodium glutamate. It is often used as a flavor enhancer in industrial foods such as instant soups. This also improves their palatability and we are more eager to eat them.
Foods with a combination of flavors
The list of foods with umami flavor includes oriental products such as shitake mushrooms or kombu seaweed, but also others that are very common in most kitchens. Surely you use many of them in the preparation of your most common kitchen recipes. Here are some vegetables and fermented and cured foods that are rich in proteins and have umami flavor:
All cheeses of medium or long fermentation, especially Parmesan
- Cured ham
- Meat, especially ones that are aged for longer
- White and green asparagus
- Dry bonito
- Miso soup
Umami in the kitchen
Do you know the best thing about having discovered umami? The fact that you can use the fifth flavor to improve the preparation of your dishes and make them even tastier and more appetizing.
The harmonious combination of different foods that contain umami will allow you to create a high-level gastronomic experience without having to rely on very sophisticated recipes.
Experts in gastronomy have already proven the advantages of umami and are aware of the importance of incorporating this flavor into most dishes. For example, a few drops of soy sauce may be that special touch that enhances the flavor of any dish. You only have to remember one basic piece of advice: foods rich in umami have a strong palate, so you must combine them with others that also contain this element to achieve the right synergy of flavors.
Avoid mixing foods rich in umami with others that don’t have it, such as lettuce, cereals or milk, to avoid an unpleasant experience on the palate.
A health benefit
It is also worth keeping in mind that using foods rich in umami flavor can be beneficial to your health. The key lies in the fact that umami’s intense flavor helps reduce the amount of salt we use to prepare any dish by up to 20%. This way you can enjoy tasty meals while taking care of your health.
Have you already discovered umami flavor and all its beneficial effects for gastronomy and health? Enjoy the experience of tasting this fifth flavor and experiencing all of its nuances on the tongue and palate. This will allow you to start experiencing cuisine with a completely different perspective. Any dish can become an explosion of flavor!