Best Fifth Taste Foods
“The umami flavour stimulates a pleasant sensation in the brain and pumps up the flavour of not so flavourful foods”
Our taste buds are very familiar with the four distinct flavours of sweet, salty, sour and bitter. However, there is also a fifth taste called umami which has taken the gastronomic world on a delicious swirl as scientists, chefs, food critics and foodies seem to agree about the fact that the mysterious umami flavour stimulates a pleasant sensation in the brain, pumps up the flavour of not so flavourful foods and completes the mosaic of our sensory perception of foods.
The Fifth Element Of Taste
Brought about by the presence of glutamic acid, an amino acid naturally abundant in many foods and its synergistic reaction with nucleotides such as inosinate (in meats) and guanylate (in vegetables), umami was proposed to be the fifth element of taste by a Japanese chemist in 1908.
However, umami continued to stay in the shadow of its prominent taste buddies – sweet and salty, for years before finding its rekindled glory in the last decade as an interesting flavour amplifier that satisfies the palate, improves satiety and promotes good health too.
The delicious umami experience is often related to a rich, savoury taste that isn’t salty with a meaty flavour that may come from non-vegetarian foods. So here’s how you can lend an umami factor to your daily recipes by adding some of these top umami foods to them.
Best Umami Flavour Foods
Bite into a slice of ripe tomato and you will taste the juicy goodness of this vegetable, along with a sweet, sour and savoury mix of flavour on your palate – this is the umami taste that just spruces up the flavour quotient of a recipe, be it a salad, soup, ketchup or any vegetarian preparation.
Mushrooms, especially the black, dried shiitake variants, are high in glutamate content and lend an earthy umami touch to any recipe.
Corn, broccoli and potatoes are glutamate containing vegetables that offer not only umami taste but also a range of nutrients, dietary fibre and vitamins. When it comes to striking gold with umami flavours, it is common to feel tempted to go the easy way and add a pinch of synthetic mono sodium glutamate (ajinomoto) in your recipes. No harm done, if you are not overdoing the MSG bit. But, it would be better to choose natural glutamate- rich foods and enjoy a pleasing taste and reap the health benefits too.
The comforting warmth of slow cooked chicken is nothing new. Chicken is naturally rich in amino acids and glutamine that exudes the delectable umami taste. When you combine chicken with other umami ingredients such as onions, mushrooms or tomatoes, the combined umami flavours is not just added up, but gets multiplied.
Fermentation seems to free the umami flavours the most and this is the reason why fermented foods and recipes such as kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage), dashi, fermented fish sauces, tempeh, sauerkraut and cured meats are considered to be umami bombs. Balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, beer, rice or wine can be added to spike up the umami taste.
Soy Sauce And Miso Paste
A simple way to bring about a yummy umami twist, is by adding a hint of earthy soya sauce or a dash of earthy miso paste. Miso is a staple in Japanese cuisine and it is prepared from soybean paste that has been fermented. This paste is often added to sauces, broths and salad dressings to add a nutty, savoury complexity to the food preparation.
Parmesan cheese, a hard grating cheese from italy is one of the highest glutamate containing natural foods. You can bring out the strong umami elements by adding parmesan cheese shavings on breads, salads or pasta.
Walnuts And Peanuts
A handful of roasted peanuts, five-six unsalted walnuts or a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, are all you need to enjoy the umami flavours.
Seafood and seaweeds feature high up in the umami food list and are also excellent sources of proteins, heart-friendly omega 3 fatty acids and a multitude of minerals. Hence, it is little surprise that sushi, sashimi, ceviche and kombu seaweed salad are relished across the globe.
This one might come as a surprise to you, but chefs are using green tea (Japanese sencha tea and matcha tea) that are abundant in amino acids and l-theanine as an umami booster in vegan recipes. Simmer vegetables in a green tea infused broth, fold green tea dust in the cookie and cake batter or just sip it warm with roasted cumin and cinnamon powder to experience the umami of green tea.