The Umami Tsunami.

Chapter Eight, Part Three.

One + One = Three (The Synergy Of Umami).

Umami Tsunami WineSnarkThe subtle, savory fifth taste known as umami was first identified by Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda in 1907. In researching umami he discovered that it was linked with the amino acid glutamate and his investigations led to the development of monosodium glutamate (MSG) as a flavor enhancer. I could feed you lots of material about the development of umami-rich MSG but you would just be hungry for more in an hour.

The umami tsunami began in earnest six years after Ikeda’s discovery when his follower Shintaro Kodama learned that glutamate, when combined with nucleotides, creates a dramatic flavor enhancing synergy. For example, when meat (high in the nucleotide inosinate) is combined with glutamate-rich foods like tomatoes or cheese, a significant umami boost is created. To understand the power of this synergy, think of the flattering outcome when you add cheese to a hamburger or braciola to tomato sauce (or as we say in New Jersey, you put the bruh-johl in the gravy).

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In Search Of Umami.

Chapter Eight, Parts One & Two.

Where Have You Been All My Life?

Searching For Umami 1Sweet, sour, salt, bitter sweet, sour, salt, bitter. I repeated those words at so many events for so many years that the phrase was like my own personal mantra, rooted in my psyche by daily visits to the Deli Lama. Just imagine my concern when I learned of umami – the existence of a fifth taste was surely going to throw off my mantra rhythm. Sweet, sour, salt, bitter … UMAMI? It has a good beet but you just can’t trance to it.

Not only did this secretive fifth taste exist, it existed right under my nose – where my mouth is conveniently located. I knew if I was ever going to get my mantra groove back I needed to embrace the mystical taste I’d overlooked for so long. I gathered articles and books on the subject and soon learned that describing the taste of umami is like describing the flavor of wine, it’s just so many words on a page. Umami, like wine, must be experienced to be understood.

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