Repost: Umami, the 5th taste

Our tongue has been used to foods that are sweet, salty, bitter, sour and also spicy. We even learned that our tongue has different areas of taste maps. Technically, there were only 4 (spicy being a sensation) but a fifth taste emerged, referred to as Umami, Japanese for 'beautiful flavor' or 'good taste.'

Umami taste can be found in many foods such as walnuts, grapes, broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, seaweed and parmesan cheese. But the most common we are familiar of is Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) or Vetsin. It is also in soy sauce, fish sauce and ketchup.


In 1907, Professor Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University started his experiments regarding the taste apart from the 4 common flavors known to man. He knew that umami can be tasted in dashi stock (soup out of kelp which is used as base for many Japanese dishes). Prof. Ikeda extracted glutamic acid (glutamate) from the konbu broth, crystallized it and called it 'umami,' coined from the Japanese word umai (delicious).



(photo and other info courtesy of http://www.glutamate.org/media/discovery_of_glutamate.asp)



Contrary to popular belief, MSG is not unhealthy or full of chemicals, glutamate is in fact an amino acid which plays an important role in the body's metabolism. MSG enhances the flavor of food, so if raw food contains saltiness and you added MSG, it becomes saltier naturally. No need for salt which contains 1/3 more of sodium, a mineral linked to certain health risks.


Nutritionists recommend that we eat foods that are low on fat and sodium, that means less salt...so next time you cook consider omitting salt, don't worry that food will taste bland, all you need is a dash of MSG!
Note: I have read and heard other people saying otherwise, so if you are or if you know a nutrition expert, please do ask!

oggi  – (September 4, 2008 at 7:43 AM)  

I grew up eating food enhanced with ajinomoto, it really makes a lot of difference in flavor. Like you said just a dash is enough for a better tasting dish. A small packet goes a long way.
I have never used it though, don't know why.:)

lilixmarvelous  – (September 6, 2008 at 8:56 AM)  

thanks for the info about msg. i don't know why some people are against it.

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