Umami

u·ma·mi - o͞oˈmämē: a category of taste in food (besides sweet, sour, salt, and bitter), corresponding to the flavor of glutamates, especially monosodium glutamate, that facilitates an indescribable deliciousness corresponding with savory, rich, and “yum” flavors.

All ingredients contain umami. Cooking unlocks the amino acid glutamate that delivers a physiologically satisfying flavor profile that “just feels right.” Certain ingredients are naturally higher in glutamates than others, but creatively pairing low umami and high umami ingredients exponentially increases the desired result. Slow cooking, simmering, curing, and fermenting are methods that unlock amino acids, and meats, certain vegetables and fruits, and high protein content ingredients are all major umami containing ingredients. While meat generally reins king as a primary source for this sensational flavor, creatively using vegetables, grains, and seasonings will not alienate the health conscious, the vegetarians and vegans, or those with restricted diets. As umami is more of a “feeling” than an actual flavor, simple tweaks in a product or recipe that nod to “feel good” favorites provide the palate what it needs to feel satisfied. Umami was once a tool to encourage the overconsumption of bad for you foods and masked the low nutritional value. We have an opportunity today to encourage positive beneficial eating habits in the same manner simply by applying the same principle used by fast and convenience food companies to better for you options. Beyond guiding positive habits, umami gives producers a chance to employ “slight-edge” concept, whereby their products will be unmistakably more satisfying, and consumers flock to products that are “just better tasting.”