Umami

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Umami is defined as taste of glutamates, it is tasted by the taste receptors specific to glutamate. Since umami has its own receptors rather than arising out of a combination of the traditionally recognized taste receptors, scientists now consider umami to be a distinct taste.
Umami is the fifth taste in one of the five basic tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, salty & umami) which was always present but discovered very late, umami is termed as mysterious fifth taste which was added to the list after years of research by food scientists and chefs.
The word umami was coined by Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda also a food lover in 1908 from two different Japanese words i.e. “umai” which means delicious and “mi” which means taste. In 1985, the term umami was recognized as the scientific term to describe the taste of glutamates and nucleotides at the first Umami International Symposium in Hawaii.
 
 
What is the taste of Umami?
 
  • Umami can be translated as “pleasant savoury taste”.
  • Umami represents the taste of the amino acid L-glutamate and 5’-ribonucleotides such as guanosine monophosphate (GMP) and inosine monophosphate (IMP).
  • It can be described as a pleasant “brothy” or “meaty” taste with a long lasting, mouth-watering and coating sensation over the tongue.
  • The sensation of umami is due to the detection of the carboxylate anion of glutamate in specialized receptor cells present on the human and other animal tongues.
  • Some 52 peptides may be responsible for detecting umami taste.
  • Its effect is to balance taste and round out the overall flavor of a dish. Umami enhances the palatability of a wide variety of foods.
  • Glutamate in acid form (glutamic acid) imparts little umami taste, whereas the salts of glutamic acid, known as glutamates, give the characteristic umami taste due to their ionized state. GMP and IMP amplify the taste intensity of glutamate. Adding salt to the free acids also enhances the umami taste.
  • Monosodium L-aspartate has an umami taste about four times less intense than MSG whereas ibotenic acid and tricholomic acid (likely as their salts or with salt) are claimed to be many times more intense.
  • Umami has a mild but lasting aftertaste associated with salivation and a sensation of furriness on the tongue, stimulating the throat, the roof and the back of the mouth.
  • By itself, umami is not palatable, but it makes a great variety of foods pleasant, especially in the presence of a matching aroma. Like other basic tastes, umami is pleasant only within a relatively narrow concentration range.

 

Food Rich in Umami components
 
Many foods that may be consumed daily are rich in umami components. Naturally occurring glutamate can be found in meats and vegetables, whereas inosinate comes primarily from meats and guanylate from vegetables. For example, mushrooms, particularly dried shiitake mushrooms, are rich sources of guanylate; smoked, fermented fish are high in inosinate, and shellfish in adenylate.
Generally, umami taste is common to foods that contain high levels of L-glutamate, IMP and GMP, most notably in fish, shellfish, cured meats, mushrooms, vegetables (e.g., ripe tomatoes, Chinese cabbage, spinach, celery, etc.) or green tea, and fermented and aged products involving bacterial or yeast cultures, such as cheeses, shrimp pastes, fish sauce, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, and yeast extracts such as Vegemite and Marmite.
Many humans’ first encounter with umami components is breast milk. It contains roughly the same amount of umami as broths.
 
 
Trivia
 
  • Chefs create “umami bombs”, which are dishes made of several umami ingredients like fish sauce.
  • Umami may account for the long-term formulation and popularity of ketchup.
  • The United States Food and Drug Administration has designated monosodium glutamate (MSG) as a safe ingredient, causing only minor adverse events, such as headaches or nausea in a small proportion of consumers.

 

Source: – Wikipedia
 









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