Monday Foodie: What’s that Umami Flavor? Huh?

We’ve been watching past seasons of Top Chef, all in order. I believe we are almost through the series. For the most part, it’s been enjoyable. A lot of the chefs are likable people and some of the food they make is amazing! We get tired of Padma’s uppitiness but maybe that’s how she’s supposed to be acting for the show. And, sometimes we feel the chefs are given mixed messages about what they are supposed to do, including adding more salt, less salt, and even more umami flavor.

So, what is umami? Believe it or not, umami is the fifth basic taste! It sits alongside, salty, sweet, bitter, and sour. But, since it seems to play a large role in the show when dishes are described we wanted to know more about it. My husband asked me what flavor dishes high in umami were supposed to impart and my answer was, “I think it is the meatiness or earthiness a dish imparts when it is tasted.” This was an intuitive guess based on the context of the conversations in which the word umami is used on the show.

But, as usual, my curiosity got the most of me! And, I had to look it up. Of course, turned to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary for the answer. I wasn’t far off when I said it was a meaty flavor. says the word is both a noun and an adjective. Here is the description in their word of the day post:

The fact that monosodium glutamate plays a role in this flavor floors me. But, the glutamate and asparatate are amino acids and nucleotides that impart the flavor to food. Umamai flavor can be found in meats, aged cheese, mushrooms, and more! It can even be found in wine! (Source: Merriam Webster online dictionary)

Image by Alan Stanley from Pixabay

Bon Appetit online has almost fourty umami recipes ready to try. Many sound delicious. The grilled eggplant sounds wonderful, as does the seasame shitake. Five foods including tomatoes, mushrooms (especially shitake), miso, kombu, and parmesean can boost the umami flavors in cooking. This also come from the same Bon Appeitit source.

The offers a list of more umami foods that you can add to your cooking to boast this fifth flavor. The article can be found, here.

While I don’t have a recipe to share with you today, I hope that I offered some inspiration to add umami to your cooking with trying some new foods. The taste “sensation” of umami is already forty years old (discovered in teh 1980’s by a Japanese scientist), but maybe you’re like me and never heard of it until you binged on some cooking shows!


Mangia bene!

5 thoughts

  1. Thank you, for sharing; this was interesting, and I didn’t know about umami flavor. I do like dried tomatoes, mushrooms, parmesan, Reggiano & all hard aged cheeses and smoked meats.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. No worries, Carol. I know how stressful moving can be. I’m happy for you that you’ll have lots of nature around.


  2. Yes. Umami. As someone who’s been getting more and more into Korean food, I feel this. (Gochujang, anyone?)

    When I first learned about umami as a flavor, it made so much sense to me – it was that “oh yeah, THAT!” feeling I had to describe tastes I couldn’t describe.

    Something tells me that as we learn even more about cultures and their food, we’ll get the benefit of an even more fully expanded vocabulary. I, for one, can’t WAIT.

    Liked by 1 person

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