Umami – expanding the taste of food


Umami is one of five basic tastes (the others: sweet, sour, bitter, salty). It is picked up through separate taste receptors and may be described as “savoury”. What have you got in the cupboard to increase the umami taste which can stimulate saliva and increase consumption?

At a Monash University lecture on Mouthfeel recently, Danish Gastrophysicist Ole Mouritsen explained the joy of unlocking the secrets of the umami taste. He said vegetables, for example, on their own have very little umami. But paired with umami, the taste pops! High basal sources of umami include dried seaweeds, dried shitake mushrooms, parmesan cheese, marmite, fish sauce, dried tomatoes, blue cheese, anchovies, soy sauce, miso paste, green tea, ketchup to name a few.

At the lecture, we taste-tested a sliver of seaweed that was simmered in soy sauce. When I put the sliver in my mouth, the soy sauce umami flavour was released – it immediately sparked a secretion of saliva. Great for those with dry mouth. When I bit into the seaweed, I then got another pop of umami taste from the mixture of the salty seaweed and soy sauce combination. Delicious!

Umami has other benefits:

  1. For those who don’t like the taste of nutritionally good foods like green vegetables, enhance the flavour of these foods by adding umami.
  2. Foods with umami flavour are satisfying to the palate and support satiety, or fullness, essential in weight management.

Find a list of umami rich ingredients here.

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