Umami – The Fifth Taste in Your Dishes

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August 29, 2014

Along with mashups, upscale comfort food, healthier kids meals, better quality pizza and instant ice cream, umami has been added to the new food trends of 2014. But what exactly is umami – which stands for savory flavor? Japanese cooks have been using it for centuries. It is called the fifth taste, to be added to salty, sour, sweet and bitter. While hard to describe what umami is, Chinese cooks have said it is meaty, roasted, or earthy.

When I first heard about umami, I immediately thought I would dislike it because to me, earthy equals mushrooms. I am not a fan at all of mushrooms! Not the taste, nor the texture. The second food group I thought about was fish because everyone talked about anchovies as being a umami food. So, as you can see, I figured umami was not in my diet. But then I realized that there were other umami foods out there that I loved.

According to Reader’s Digest, here is a list of foods with natural umami:

  1. Beef – matured beef, like beef jerky, even a hamburger!
  2. Pork – mmmmm! Bacon!
  3. Chicken – comfort food chicken noodle soup
  4. Tomatoes – pasta sauce … even ketchup
  5. Mushrooms – what can I say?
  6. Soy – just learned that fermented soy beans make soy sauce
  7. Potatoes – potato chips or fries with ketchup
  8. Carrots – love them as an afternoon snack
  9. Parmesan cheese – oh, my gosh! I love Parmesan cheese crisps – they are addicting
  10. Green tea – which has become so popular lately
  11. Tuna – same as mushrooms for me
  12. Shrimp – okay, for me, this doesn’t fall into the same food group as fish
  13. Shellfish – now we are back to fish with clams, scallops, mussels and oysters

WikiHow adds anchovies, fish sauce, miso soup, and green peas to the list of umami foods. As you can see, there are enough different kinds of food containing the umami flavor, that almost everyone can say they are an umami fan.

There is also an umami paste that you can buy to add to recipes or just spread some on toast!  But after looking at several recipes and what goes into it (there is that fish sauce again or anchovies) I think I will stick to one of the other types of foods to get my umami flavor.

So, let’s see if you passed the test – a decadent beef stew with carrots, mushrooms and potatoes. Or a big juicy hamburger, topped with bacon, parmesan cheese, mushrooms, ketchup and soy sauce, served with a side of fries! Can’t get much more umami than that. What are you waiting for – go enjoy your umami flavor.

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