Even if you don’t know what umami is, you are probably already relishing it in certain foods without realising it, whether it’s chips with ketchup or bacon and cheese with your hamburger. Umami is categorised as the “fifth flavour” alongside sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Used to describe the meaty and savoury flavours in food, it’s created by the interaction of glutamates and is contained in many of our everyday ingredients we use for cooking.
Tomatoes are versatile in their source of umami, and their meaty flavour comes from their high level of glutamates. You might not realise it, but very ripe tomatoes have an exceptional savoury taste, especially when they are roasted or sun-dried. Similarly, when made into a sauce or ketchup, the umami flavour is heightened even more.
In addition to mushrooms being packed with glutamate, their levels of umami are particularly increased when dried as the liquid from re-hydrated fungi, such as Shiitake or Porcini, is strengthened. They often act as a substitute for meat – whether dried or roasted – and it’s globally accepted by organisations such as Biomed Central that they contribute to building up the flavours in longer-cooking dishes.
Cheese is often a favourite to be added into our food recipes. Although all cheeses contain umami, it is Parmesan that surpasses all others. Whether you’re using it grated on top of a salad or pasta dish or to intensify a minestrone soup, the free glutamic acid it contains triggers the umami taste. The more aged the cheese, the deeper the flavour created.
You don’t have to be a fan of the strong flavours of anchovies to appreciate the meaty influence they can have in a meat stew or in a salad dressing. Whether you love them or hate them, you have to admit they add a gutsy punch to many recipes such as those found at http://food-tales.com/ that would otherwise lack serious flavour.
Once you start looking into umami foods, you might be surprised by how many of our everyday ingredients contain it. Most types of fish and meat offer some of the richest sources of umami, and when you pair them up with other foods, you’ll be delighting your taste buds in enjoying the flavours.