What is umami?
Umami is the fifth “basic taste,” following sweetness, saltiness, sourness and bitterness. The word is Japanese for “pleasant savoury taste.”
Where does it come from?
Umami comes from glutamates (a type of amino acid) and ribonucleotides. Many foods are naturally rich in umami, but nowadays it’s often artificially added to processed foods as MSG.
How do I know when I’m tasting it?
Think of the intense savoury meatiness of chicken broth, or the mouth-watering sensation of bacon: pure umami. It also amplifies other flavours, playing a vital role in making food taste delicious.
What foods is it found in?
These include fish, shellfish, cured meats, mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, seaweeds, walnuts, spinach, peas, green tea, corn, potatoes, cheeses (especially Parmesan), pickles and soy sauce. Humans’ first encounter with umami is often breast milk, containing roughly the same concentration as broth.
Five quick ways to add umami: