July 25, 2010

Yo -umami!

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 12:06 am
Tags: , , , , ,
Tomatoes are very umami

I see that the Ajinomoto company was founded on this date in 1908 and that the next year they got together with Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo University.  A chemistry professor, Ikeda had figured out what made seafood broth so tasty, so full of umami.  It was the glutamates, and soon he and Ajinomoto were making MSG.

(N.B.: Cooks prefer to call it umame, but in general it’s correctly spelled umami.)

Ajinomoto now produces a third of the world’s supply of MSG and many of the chemicals that are used to intensify its effect.

We in the West used to be taught that there were only four basic tastes – bitter, sweet, sour and salty.  Then we learned about umami, which can best be translated as ‘savory.’  Tomatoes, especially in the form of sauce, cheese, meat and fish are all excellent sources of umami. Asian cooking has always used such umami enhancers as soy sauce, fish paste, and seaweed.

Professor Kikunae Ikeda

Italian cooking is umami-rich with tomato sauce, anchovies and aged cheese. The French specialize in meat glazes, which are pure umami – Brillat-Savarin understood  that special savory flavors were coming from somewhere and even invented a word for it (osmazome), but it never caught on.

A nice Gorgonzola makes for a lot of umami

Interestingly, your stomach can actually kind of taste glutamates. It has special receptors for them and when stimulated, the receptors send a message of palatability to the limbic system in the brain.  There is one little problem  – palatability is not the same as satiety and can actually suppress satiety cues. Palatability makes you want more, so umami can make you overeat.

* * *

It’s Constitution Day in Puerto Rico, also the anniversary of the day US troops landed on the island during the Spanish-American War.  Since the Constitution of Puerto Rico had to be ratified by Congress and approved by President Truman before President Munoz Marin could proclaim it in 1952, I’m not sure what’s being celebrated.



  1. Dang that was one hell of a good piece of story telling, I much enjoyed it thanks much!


    Comment by avery zia — July 26, 2010 @ 4:57 pm | Reply

  2. Them pictures is also terrific!


    Comment by avery zia — July 26, 2010 @ 4:59 pm | Reply

  3. delicious! 😀


    Comment by ninachat — July 26, 2010 @ 5:41 pm | Reply

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