Monday Musing: Umami As A Descriptor

Unagi – photo from Bento.com

Today’s Monday Musing is about the concept of Umami. Often considered the fifth sense following sweet, salty, sweet and bitter. I was introduced to this term about 12 years ago but confess it’s not a descriptor I use often. I am now enrolled in a course at the Wine Scholar Guild about Wine Science with a genius speaker, Gabriel Lepousez, who is speaking about receptors and how we perceive aromas and flavors. It’s fascinating and he is extremely knowledgeable. It’s quite thought-provoking about how we taste, our sense memory and how tradition and culture are part of this complex puzzle.

He spoke during the first session two weeks ago about Umami. He mentioned that it is much more prevalent in Japan where they are used to speaking about this savory array of aromas that make up this concept.

According to Wikipedia, “Umami , or savoriness, is one of the five basic tastes. It has been described as savory and is characteristic of broths and cooked meats. People taste umami through taste receptors that typically respond to glutamates and nucleotides, which are widely present in meat broths and fermented products. Glutamates are commonly added to some foods in the form of monosodium glutamate (MSG), and nucleotides in the form of inosine monophosphate or guanosine monophosphate.”

When I think of savory, the first thing that comes to mind is Unagi, broiled eel which is pictured above. I just learned a lot about it from this website Bento.com. I love Unagi and when I next go to a sushi restaurant I will order it. I recently wrote about Sake, here and here, about when researching that beverage, I found that they often mention Umami as a descriptor for it.

I’m wondering who used it as a tasting note. Love to hear any and all comments on this.

2 comments

  1. Oh I’ve definitely used it before, often in conjunction with another descriptor though. For example, one of my wineries here does several red wines, all of which had a very distinct “umami” essence in the flavor of soy sauce/broiled mushroom.

    • So interesting Andrea. Yes I know it’s a sweet/savory/balsamic note, it just doesn’t often come to me but maybe now it will. I can’t wait to try some Turkish wine again sometime soon.

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