Till to date, our knowledge on the number of flavors was counting four flavors, sweet, bitter, sour and salty. However, things change now and we have a new fifth flavor, called Umami.
This article presents an analysis of Umami along with the way this was discovered.
A number of questions come immediately to our mind.
Is this an elementary flavor or plays a minor role?
How this new flavor has come about?
How can you taste Umami when combining food?
Which foods include this 5th flavor as it is?
What are the properties of Umami flavor and upon what it depends?
Who can benefit from the 5th taste and how?
A new word, Umami, entered our language lately, referring to a new taste, the 5th taste.
Is Umami an elementary flavor along with the others already known, or is something different?
Allow me to clarify a few things, necessary for understanding this new flavor.
The taste of different foods is different. Why is this?
The taste is due to the chemicals contained in every food, so giving its final taste.
Along this line of thinking, we say the lemons are sour.
The salts are salty.
Honey is sweet.
Coffee (when plain) is bitter.
What about Umami? How could characterize this 5th taste, being the talk of the town all over the world and comes as the new food trend?
Discovered by the Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda in 1908, it was only very recently (in 2000) that became widely known.
This happened as is only in 2000 the discovery of the Japanese scientist was scientifically founded, describing a new taste causing uncontrollable salivation from pleasure.
This taste may be perceived by the taste buds on the human tongue thanks to a chemical called glutamic acid, contained in several of known foods.
However, when not contained in large quantities, Umami flavor is not perceived.
On the contrary, in the case of foods containing a very large amount of this substance and the taste of Umami (the 5th taste) is immediately noticeable.
Nevertheless, what flavor is this?
Many describe it as a cross of salty and smoky, not a clear flavor, however described in different ways. Its main feature – as research shows – is the velvet feeling left on the palate and tongue, a multidimensional, deep and intense character flavor, providing maximum enjoyment and taste satisfaction.
Umami is the 5th elementary flavor coming to change the data in our kitchens, causing pleasure (something necessary in our daily lives), helping heal various wounds / inflammations in organism and enhancing the good digestive function of organism.
This taste derived from 3 basic chemicals, present in various foods, giving this final flavor result and causing flavor fullness in the person.
These basic chemicals are:
When these 3 chemicals are combined (in sufficient quantity), produce a special flavor, creating a flavor effect transmitting a strong signal to the brain and stimulating its function, provoking intense inner satisfaction.
Of these 3 substances, glutamic acid (Glutamic Acid), is the basic and most important, being an amino acid, though not belonging to the 8 essential amino acids for organism and health, neither to the 4 semi-essentials – provides a very interesting action in organism, as well as multiple benefits for the individual’s health.
Am amino acid considered as a stimulant and appearing to enhance the action of the Central Nervous System (CNS), also called a “stimulant amino acid”, however, apart from stimulation, can cause relaxation as well. The effect of glutamic acid on the nervous system is very interesting and useful.
As one of the 20 protein amino acids, glutamic acid is also a key structural component of proteins. Many amino acids jointly form the so-called peptides.
A series of fused amino acids making up a protein bound to peptide bonds (-NH-CO-), forming a joint peptide chain.
Glutamic acid as a chemical was not discovered until 1866 by the German chemist Karl Heinrich Leopold Ritthausen, who gave it the name “glutamic acid”.
Then the Japanese chemical researcher Kikunae Ikeda from the Imperial University of Tokyo made another important discovery that led to the discovery of the 5th flavor, as noticed a brown salt (in the form of crystals) remaining after the kombu broth has evaporated (especially when in large quantities).
These crystals gave the word, designated as Umami, conveying the feeling left by various foods known.
As already mentioned, the characteristic Umami flavor (a flavor combining the salty taste with a smoky sensation) is extremely difficult to describe it in words.
What we can typically say is that causes increased secretion of saliva and something like a slight numbness in the palate and tongue.
This feeling is velvet and when rendered correctly causes intense pleasure, meaning that the taste of Umami alone cannot cause pleasure. However, when combined with specific foods and aromas give this feeling of fullness.
Essentially the performance of flavor effect called “Umami” depends on various factors, including the concentration of salt, combination of foods and flavors and their taste.
Umami flavor can enhance the effect of 2 flavors (savory and sweet), also “suppressing” the effect of the other 2 flavors (sour and bitter).
The reason Umami has been the subject of intense discussions as manages to add a complexity to the already existing flavors and to “elevate” the flavor result and experience.
Experts specifically urge people to “experiment” in the kitchen with this new flavor and “discover” new flavor paths, experiences and pleasures.
A small amount of Umami can “transform” a boring dish into a feast of taste.
The basic question is: Where can I find Umami?
We could say that if we have to refer to a food giving the Umami experience as it is, this is the different types of algae.
After all, the 5th Umami flavor was discovered precisely by the evaporation of a Kombu broth (a type of algae) and the remnant of this evaporation.
However, apart from Kombu seaweed, other well-known foods “hide” the Umami flavor.
Foods found in our home and if combined properly, could offer the 5th flavor.
Let’s see some of them below:
During infancy, a person clearly feels this 5th flavor. An example is the feeling of fullness an infant feels while breastfeeding. Growing up, however, requires the right combination of foods to regain that sense of pleasure from a meal.
A typical example of Umami flavor satisfaction is pizza including tomatoes, parmesan cheese, cold cuts and black olives, so being very high in glutamic acid, offering what we call Umami, all those “sinful” flavors.
Umami has become the new global food trend, a flavor full of pleasure (especially if can be attributed to a relatively low caloric value) and in this way being valuable for anyone wishing to control its body weight or even try to lose weight.
Meals with addition of Umami can be made more filling and enjoyable (what is missing from any diet?)
It’s worth the try anyway.