Umami: The Fifth Taste

I like the healthy food that I eat to have maximum flavour; it is not necessary to sacrifice satisfaction or pleasure for health. I want to be excited about eating all along the way. From concept, when I think about what to eat; to the inspirational trip to the farmer's market; the experience of preparation; to the visual; aromatic;  and taste sensations. 

After salty, sweet, sour, and bitter, umami is the fifth basic taste. It can best be described as a rich and delicious savoury taste that is fully rounded, pleasant, and satisfying. It enhances and gives depth, intensity, and complexity to food. Umami depends on the addition of salt to be fully realized.  

Piquance is a sixth basic taste used to describe strong, sharp, pungent, spicy, and hot smells and tastes.

For helpful information, please visit HEALTH COACH: 

Cheesy Green Chile 
and Potato Chowder
3 poblano peppers
1 large yellow onion, small diced
1 green bell pepper, small diced
3 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 stalks celery, small diced
3 slices bacon
2 t minced garlic
1 quart chicken broth
2 t salt
2 c milk
1/4 c flour
1/2 c Mexican blend cheese (plus additional for serving)
thinly sliced green onions 

First, fire roast the peppers.

To do this, place poblano peppers right over the flame on your burner if you have a gas stove. Flip occasionally until every inch of the pepper is charred. If you don’t have a gas stove, place peppers underneath the broiler on a lined sheet tray (also flipping occasionally) until charred. Once charred all around, immediately remove peppers from heat and put them in a paper bag, for 20 minutes, until cooled, then remove charred skin with the back of a knife and roughly chop up peppers.

While your peppers are cooling, fry the bacon in a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot. Fry until crispy then remove bacon from the pot and drain on pepper towels. Keep grease in the pot!

Add your onion, bell pepper, garlic and celery to the hot grease. Saute for about six minutes over medium heat until veggies are just tender. Add cubed potatoes to the pot, as well as the poblano peppers, and toss well so everything is combined.

Pour in chicken broth and add the salt. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 35 minutes until potatoes are very tender. Add milk and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together so that no flour clumps remain and bring back to a simmer. Simmer for another 10 minutes.

Turn off heat completely and add cheese to the pot. Stir well so cheese melts. Serve immediately with crumbled bacon, sliced green onions and additional cheese. 
Serves 4-6 
Eat, Live, Run

How We Experience Food

click to expand

All taste buds on the tongue and other regions of the mouth can detect umami taste independently of their location. The tongue map in which different tastes are attributed to specific regions of the tongue is a common misconception. 

Umami aroma and taste have appetizing benefits to the elderly and the medicated who have reduced appetite, sense of smell and taste and are at increased risk of poor nutrition and consequently, disease.

The Mushroom Melt
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
8 ounces Cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 t thyme, chopped
1/4 c white wine or broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 T parsley, chopped
2 t truffle oil (optional)
1 c fontina or gruyere, shredded
1/4 c parmigiano reggiano, grated
4 slices bread
2 T butter 

Melt the butter and heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and saute until fragrant, about a minutes.

Add the mushrooms and saute until the start to caramelized and turn golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. Add the wine, deglaze the pan and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Season with salt and pepper, add the parsley and remove from heat and let cool a bit. 
Mix the cheese into the mushrooms.

Butter one side of each slice of bread and place 2 in the pan buttered side down. 
Top each with 1/2 of the mushroom mixture and finally the remaining slices of bread with the buttered side up.

Grill until the cheese has melted and the bread is golden brown, about 2-4 minutes per side. 
Servings: 2 Sandwiches
Closet Cooking

Potato-Stuffed Poblanos with Shrimp
4 poblano peppers
3 c Garlic Mashed Potatoes
fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears of corn
1 small zucchini, diced
1 ½ c shredded
mexican-blend cheese
¼ c fresh cilantro, chopped
¼ t ground cumin
2 large fresh tomatoes, diced, preferably heirloom (or 2 15 oz.
cans fire-roasted tomatoes)
½ medium white onion, diced
1 chipotle pepper, minced
2 T adobo sauce, divided (from can of chipotle peppers)
¾ t kosher salt
3 garlic cloves, crushed
juice of 1 lime
2 T olive oil
24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (approx. 1 pound)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Cut peppers in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and veins; set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine potatoes, corn, zucchini, ½ cup of the cheese, cilantro and cumin. Spoon potato mixture evenly into the peppers (mixture should mound high, not be flush with peppers). Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together tomatoes, white onion, 1 T of adobo sauce and salt. Place mixture into bottom of 13×9 baking dish. Nestle filled peppers into mixture.

Combine garlic cloves, lime juice, remaining 1 T adobo sauce and olive oil in a large, resealable plastic bag or shallow baking dish. Add shrimp, toss to coat and place in refrigerator.

Place peppers in oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle peppers with remaining shredded cheese and place back in oven for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Meanwhile, remove shrimp from refrigerator. Drain excess liquid and place shrimp onto sheet pan. Roast shrimp alongside peppers for approximately 5 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through (you can time this so both peppers and shrimp are removed from the oven at the same time).

Place one stuffed pepper onto plate, top with some tomato mixture from bottom of pan and 3 large shrimp. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro, if desired.

The Wicked Noodle 

Umami Around The World

 Click For Expanded View

There are recognized foods, food combinations, and preparation methods that create higher values of umami. Onions, leeks, celery, garlic, herbs, mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, asparagus, spinach, parmesan cheese, eggs,  olives, seaweed, meat, poultry, fish, seafood, anchovies, balsamic vinegar, sauerkraut, worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, marmite, ketchup, soy sauce, wine and Japanese green tea contain some of the highest amounts of umami. 

Food that is aged, cured, fermented and dried creates increased umami. Roasting and sautéing release and enhance umami. Asian and Mediterranean food is  appealing because of their higher umami values.

Roast Tomato and Basil Soup
4 - 400g cans of whole, peeled tomatoes
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 T olive oil
1 tsp salt 
2 red onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 t tomato paste
2 T soy sauce
1.5 litres vegetable or chicken stock
100ml cream
Salt & pepper to taste
Fresh basil leaves, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200°c.

Place the tinned tomatoes and all of their juices in a roasting tray and add the Balsamic, olive oil, sugar and salt. Stir to combine and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the tomatoes are broken down and have started caramelizing slightly.

In a large pot, sauté the onions in some olive oil until they are translucent and fragrant. Add the garlic and fry for another minute.

Add the roasted tomatoes, tomato paste, soy sauce and sugar. Stir to combine all the ingredients and pour in the stock.
Lower the heat and cover the pot. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and blend the soup.

Add the cream and season to taste. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.
Serves 6-8

The Best Veggie Burger Ever

1 package of Gimmie Lean, ground beef style
1 cup of cooked brown rice
1/2 small onion, diced
The pulp of 1 large beet after juicing
Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs Olive Oil, for cooking 

Combine the Gimmie Lean, rice, onion, and beet pulp in a large bowl and stir until it is all very well incorporated.

Coat the patties with a thin layer of the Worcestershire sauce.
Add the oil to a pan and heat it up on the stove. Fry the patties on both sides. Add more oil if needed.

Serve on a toasted bun with grilled pineapple, ripe avocado, red pepper, lettuce, sauteed onion, and condiments you like on your burger. Servings: 5-6 Burgers  V.K. Rees Photography

About Umami

The word umami is derived from the Japanese umai - delicious, and mi - taste and was named by Professor Kikunae Ikeda, a chemist, who discovered and defined Umami in 1908, after pondering the deliciousness of Dashi broth composed of seaweed. Long before that, in the 1800s, Auguste Escoffier, a renowned French chef invented a broth that made him famous for its umami properties.
In 1985, umami was officially recognized as the scientific term to describe the taste of the naturally occurring amino acid L-glutamate and ribonucleotides (inosinate comes primarily from meats and guanylate from vegetables) by specialized receptor cells on the human tongue. Glutamic acid is one of the 20-22 proteinogenic amino acids and they occur naturally in many foods. These amino acids break down in the cooking process to create L-glutamate which gives food umami character. Professor Ikeda then patented a method of mass-producing a crystalline salt of glutamic acid, monosodium glutamate. 


Monosodium Glutamate
Labeled MSG, autolyzed yeast extract, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, meat tenderizer, accent, or simply as spices; monosodium glutamate is probably the food additive that is the most difficult to avoid. 
The variety of names can be confusing, and this amino acid is added to almost all savoury, processed, and packaged food. 

MSG is a substance called an excito-toxin. This substance disturbs neurological pathways, is addictive, affects our saiety response and increases the insulin production of the pancreas and causes obesity. MSG has also been linked to headaches, migraines, diabetes, autism, ADHD,  and alzheimers disease.

Chef Alex Svenne

Thank you for taking the time to talk with HEALTH COACH to share your mastery of Umami. Let's get started.

1. When I think of Umami, I think of your food. The tantalizing aromas alert the senses at the Bistro threshold. Please reveal to us the secret of creating your stimulating Umami flavours and tastes. 

If I reveal the secret, you wouldn't have to come here for dinner  anymore.  I think Umami is the most subtle of the flavours and hardest to pinpoint. I feel it is allowed to come forward when all the other flavours are in balance.

2. Is cooking method as important as ingredients? What are your favorite Umami methods and ingredients? 

I believe when it comes to Umami, the cooking method is more important than the ingredients. Although some ingredients are recognized for having the Umami taste, mushrooms, dark soy sauce, I think that flavour really comes forward in how food is cooked. White bread has no umami, toast does.  A well browned piece of meat, for example, has beautiful umami flavours.

3. You have many worldly culinary adventures. Please share with us your most memorable Umami experience. 
Umami certainly is a memorable taste experience.The master of umami is Susur Lee. When enjoying a 7 course dinner at Susur,  you could really taste his mastery of all the flavours including Umami. 

4.  What are your thoughts on the sixth taste, piquance? 

I don't really think Piquance is a taste. I just think it is a physical reaction to the heat caused by capsein and other oils or feelings created by acidity or other agressive ingredients.

5. What are some of your latest Umami experiments and favorite recipes? 

Our veal cheek bourguignon is a veritable umami party, with the mushrooms, smoky bacon and well roasted veal cheeks braised in a rich red wine reduction. I also believe that a perfectly seared piece of foie gras is an umami celebration.



1 comment:

  1. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an very long comment but after I
    clicked submit my comment didn't appear. Grrrr... well I'm not writing all that over again.

    Regardless, just wanted to say fantastic blog!
    Also visit my web page :: fowler web design


This is the place where you leave a comment about information you have read here at HEALTH COACH. Thank you