What is Umami Taste?

Umami has been recently documented as the fifth taste in human beings, but it has been exploited over the years in the preparation of delicious foods. The umami taste comes from the use of ingredients that contain naturally occurring glutamate to give the food a rich, delicious, savory taste. These ingredients also enhance other tastes, thus minimizing the use of other cooking ingredients like fat and salt. The umami ingredients come from natural healthy sources like tomatoes, soybeans, seaweed, asparagus, and certain meats and fishes. Many people from different parts of the world have their own ingredients that they use to make umami.
The umami taste is now being listed alongside salty, bitter, sweet, and sour as the main tastes in humans. There are other flavors that have been counted as tastes in some cultures but are not yet universally accepted. Some of these ‘tastes’ include minty, metallic, fatty, or spicy. Humans and animals are able to perceive the different tastes through the use of taste buds in the tongue and mouth. There are thousands of these taste buds and each of them contains sensory receptor cells and nerves. There are specific receptors for each type of taste, and the taste buds contain different taste receptors.
Many cultures have their own way of making and describing the umami taste. Foods rich in umami require less salt and fat to prepare. The French add veal stock to their meals to increase umami while the Japanese add seaweed for the same purpose. The unique, delicious umami taste results from free amino acids in the food and not the ones bound to proteins. The amount of free amino acids in foods is increased during ripening, fermentation, aging, or heat exposure. The foods that undergo these processes are usually rich in umami and are delicious when used for cooking.


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