Saturday, 2 April 2011

do you know about UMAMI?

i was supposed to be writing my hungary blog, but got down a weird internet wormhole that made me ask the question, "what is the taste tangy" . . . i searched all over and couldn't figure that out, but i discovered that there are 5 basic tastes, not 4 like i learned in school.

do you know that in 1985:
Umami was officially recognized as the scientific term to describe the taste of glutamates and nucleotides. Now it is widely accepted as the fifth basic taste. Umami represents the taste of the amino acid L-glutamate and 5’-ribonucleotides such as guanosine monophosphate (GMP) and inosine monophosphate (IMP).[8] It is described as a pleasant "brothy" or "meaty" taste with a long lasting, mouthwatering and coating sensation over the tongue. This is due to the detection of the carboxylate anion of glutamate in specialized receptor cells present on the human and animal tongue. Its fundamental effect is the ability to balance taste and round the total flavor of a dish. Umami clearly enhances the palatability of a wide variety of foods (for review Beauchamp, 2009). Glutamate in acid form (Glutamic acid) imparts little umami taste; whereas the salts of glutamic acid, known as glutamates, can easily ionize and give the characteristic umami taste. GMP and IMP amplify the taste intensity of glutamate
so there are FIVE basic tastes now (but actually 26 years): sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and UMAMI

these sentences helped me figure out what they are getting at:
  • Ripe tomatoes are rich in umami components.
  • Umami is a loanword from the Japanese umami (うま味?) meaning "pleasant savory taste".[6
  • One of Kuninaka's most important discoveries was the synergistic effect between ribonucleotides and glutamate. When foods rich in glutamate are combined with ingredients that have ribonucleotides, the resulting taste intensity is higher than the sum of both ingredients. This is why Japanese make dashi with kombu seaweed and dried bonito flakes, Chinese add Chinese leek and cabbage with chicken soup or Italians combine Parmesan cheese on tomato sauce with mushrooms. The umami taste sensation of those ingredients mixed together surpasses the taste of each one alone.
  • Umami has a mild but lasting after taste difficult to describe.
  • It induces salivation and a furriness sensation on the tongue, stimulating the throat, the roof and the back of the mouth
  • umami is not palatable, but it makes a great variety of foods pleasant especially in the presence of a matching aroma.[21] But like other basic tastes, with the exception of sucrose, umami is pleasant only when used within a relatively narrow concentration range.[19]
  • Umami taste is common to foods that contain high levels of L-glutamate, IMP and GMP, most notably in fish, shellfish, cured meats, vegetables (e.g.mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, Chinese cabbage, spinach, etc.) or green tea, and fermented and aged products (e.g. cheeses, shrimp pastes, soy sauce, etc.)
  • The stomach can "taste" sodium glutamate using glumate receptors[33] and this information is passed to the lateral hypothalamus and limbic system in the brain as a palatability signal through the vagus nerve.[34]
it is pretty cool to think about what taste is for a little bit . . .
actually, i think hungary is umami: the people, cuisine, history, skyline, etc.

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