Umami- The fifth human taste

‘Umami’ is a word that has been part of the Japanese dictionary for many years and it literally means “deliciousness” .However it is used to describe a certain taste and flavor that is fast gaining popularity in India. Our range of Clearspring products are rich in Umami and using these products will lend your dishes a rich flavor and a unique savory hit. Umami is often used to describe that earthy and mushroomy flavor we get though no one word can aptly describe this flavor. Through this blog post ( reference : The Clearspring Blog) we will take you through the journey of Umami and hope that you enjoy the Umami flavor in our Clearspring Range as much as we do. The Discovery of Umami So let’s start at the beginning with kombu, the sea vegetable. In 1908, the Japanese scientist Dr. Kikunae Ikeda was sitting down to a dish of simmered tofu when it occurred to him that there was a taste there that could not be classified as any of the four known tastes: sweet, salty, bitter or sour; it was a fifth taste, which he later dubbed umami. As the tofu itself had a relatively plain taste, he instinctively knew that it must be the kombu which was responsible for this added dimension in the dish, so he set to work finding out what this taste was. His research led to the identification of the amino acid glutamate, which kombu contains in abundance, as one of the main umami substances.

The Components of Umami

Just as sweetness, for example, can be derived from different substances such as glucose or fructose, umami too comes from a variety of substances. Since the discovery of kombu’s glutamate content, other scientists have gone on to find other umami substances in fish, meat, mushrooms and many other ingredients. Although glutamate sounds similar to monosodium glutamate (MSG), it is important to point out that MSG is an unnatural, chemically synthesised product, while glutamate is a naturally occurring substance which is perfectly safe and healthy. So if you want to boost the umami levels in your dishes without using MSG, you can achieve this by incorporating into your cooking umami-rich Clearspring products, such as Kombu, Miso and Tamari.

Umami throughout the World

Unlike the other basic tastes, umami has the unique quality of bringing the other tastes together to create a more cohesive dish and a fuller taste in the mouth – just as the kombu brought out the best in the simmered tofu. This, however, does not mean that umami is either a new concept or an exclusively Japanese taste. Umami-rich ingredients can be found in every part of the world and people have been playing with ways of enhancing their cooking with it for millenia. For example, in ancient Rome they had garum – a fermented fish sauce, similar to the modern South East Asian sauces, which was regularly used to season and enhance dishes. Equally, basic soup stocks all over the world tend to be rich in umami as are tomato ketchup and purée, essential store cupboard ingredients in most Western kitchens, and even Marmite. If you want to try your own experiment, make two pans of risotto, one simply with rice, onions, thyme and stock, the other with the addition of dried porcini mushrooms, which have been rehydrated, and also the liquid that they soaked in. If you taste both risottos, you may find that the first is a little flat, as if something is missing. Now try the second and it will have a much more rounded taste and a greater depth of flavour too. This is due to the umami content of the dried porcini.

Umami-rich Clearspring Products



Umami, the fifth human taste, is often associated with fish, meat and dairy products, but vegan ingredients can also be rich in umami. Many Clearspring products are naturally bursting with umami and can be used to enhance any number of dishes. Umami-rich vegan ingredients include: Sea vegetables – while kombu has the highest concentration, all sea vegetable varieties contain umami, so incorporate some Clearspring Sea Vegetables into your diet. Shiitake – drying them also intensifies the umami content; Clearspring Sun Dried Japanese Shiitake are packed with umami. Soya beans – this includes soya bean products such as miso and soy sauce which are even higher in umami due to the fermentation process. Try using Clearspring Miso as a seasoning, stock or soup base for an instant umami boost. A splash of Clearspring Organic Tamari Soya Sauce or Shoyu Soya Sauce will also do the trick. Mirin – another great umami seasoning, adding Clearspring Mirin to you dishes adds both sweetness and depth of flavour. Green tea – green tea contains varying levels of the amino acids responsible for the umami taste, and the Clearspring Green Tea range is no exception. Other umami ingredients include: potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, Chinese cabbage, asparagus, green peas, spinach and nuts.

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* This post is a part reproduction of the blog post Umami- the fifth human taste  courtesy The Clearspring group and is a part of our Japanese Food awareness series. 

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