What is Umami?
Umami is the fifth basic taste after sweet, salty, bitter and sour. Derived from the Japanese word umai, meaning “delicious,” umami (pronounced oo-MAH-mee) is described as a savory, brothy, rich or meaty taste sensation. To scientists, umami indicates a high level of glutamate, an amino acid and building block of protein. To chefs and food lovers, it’s a satisfying sense of deep, complete flavor, balancing savory flavors and full-bodied taste with distinctive qualities of aroma and mouthfeel. Imagine such wholly satisfying foods as steak with sautéed mushrooms, coq au vin and pasta with tomato sauce and Parmesan. That burst of rich, savory flavor is umami. Cured meats, soy sauce, aged cheese and mushrooms are rich in it.
Why Umami is Important
- Flavor enhancement: The more umami present in food, the more ﬂ avorful it will be.
- Enhances guest satisfaction: Umami creates both appetite appeal and satiety, the feeling of being gratiﬁed to the fullest extent.
- Less salt use: Umami counterbalances saltiness and allows up to a 50 percent salt reduction without compromising ﬂavor.
- Brings out the best: Umami highlights sweetness and lessens bitterness.
Umami and Mushrooms
All mushrooms are a rich source of umami and the darker the mushroom the more umami it contains. Widely available mushrooms with the most umami:
Dried mushrooms tend to have more umami than fresh ones, and cooked mushrooms are more umami-rich than raw. This means that adding mushrooms in virtually any form—raw, sautéed, whole cap garnish, even a dusting of dried powder—will add an umami lift to foods.
Click here to learn more about mushrooms and umami and how to use this natural flavor enhancer on your menu.