What is Umami?

 The thought about taste could be traced back to ancient Greek; Aristotle separated taste into two main areas, bitter and sweet, and further separated in other details. In the history of the West, the four tastes given were simply bitterness, sourness, sweetness, and saltiness. It was thought that these four tastes covered every taste available. Since 1907, the fifth taste Umami, which has long been used in Eastern cuisine, has been officially discovered by Japanese, Dr. Kikunae Ikeda from Tokyo Imperial University, founder of Mono Sodium Glutamate (MSG). The first description about Umami taste comes from his note “There is a taste which is common to asparagus, tomatoes, cheese and meat, but which is not one of the four well-known tastes of sweet, sour, bitter and salty.” Later on, this flavor has been recognized as the fifth basic taste in addition to the four better known tastes of sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Professor Ikeda started his experiment on Kombu Seaweed, which he found the taste was present. He successfully extracted Glutamic Acid from Kombu Seaweed and noted that the Glutamate had a distinctive taste which is different from the four Western well-known basic tastes. He called this new discovered taste “Umami”. Umami has literally meaning as “delicious flavor” and now has been use as international term of the fifth basic taste. Today Umami is considered a fundamental taste in Japanese food. The most obvious example for the use of Umami taste in Japanese food is Katsuobushi, also known as okaka which is the Japanese name for dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna that used to add in many dishes or used as soup based. This ingredient has no other taste but only Umami in it. The clear explanation of Umami taste could be difficult; however, it is something similar to fatty meats like steak, seafood and aged cheese.