On the 6th day of Christmas my true love gave to me, something to taste Umami!
Umami, elusive and deep. The direct translation is, ‘pleasant, savory taste’. The dark and mysterious of the 5 flavors. Broth with umami is essential for a well balance soup or sauce. It is even said that our craving for umami comes from our youngest days…both amniotic fluid & breast milk are full of amino acids that pack lots of umami punch. The other tastes out of the 5 are enhanced when combined together, but umami has an entirely different set of taste receptors, so it truly stands alone.
Stands alone is an understatement. Scientifically it is said to be its own true distinct flavor. Maybe the only true distinct flavor. It has a lingering and beautiful aftertaste. There is a lot of history in the discovery, or rather defining, of the taste of umami. Many contribute the origination with dashi, a broth used for many dishes, primarily a good ramen. Kombu is the type of seaweed that is combined with bonito flakes to create the depth in this particular broth.
Creating umami is exciting & certainly rewarding. Here is a short list of items that you can incorporate into dishes that lend some of that umami, ‘Je ne sais quoi’.
*Bragg’s Amino Acids
*Bone Broth or other Stocks
*MSG, or other glutomates
*Hard Cheeses, such as Parmesan
*Nutritional Yeast, other Yeasts
*Fish & Shellfish
*Some Fermented Foods (All richly fermented foods are umami, but not every single fermented food is distinctly umami).
*Tomatoes (when cooked down)
There are clearly several ways to achieve the umami flavor and actually some very common combinations that we use often…for example, roasted tomatoes, parmesan cheese & pasta. Two umami flavors combined in one delicious dish.
As I said before, many mushrooms fall into the umami category. I created a shiitake & porcini salt that can be used in soups, sauces, & any dish that needs a little extra depth. Use it as you would salt, but in a dish that you want to stand out with that umami flavor. Enjoy!