What does umami mean?
Umami is a word coined by Kikunae Ikeda, the Japanese chemist known for his research into the source of savory flavor. The word is derived from “umai” meaning delicious, and “mi” meaning taste. Umami is often defined in the English translation as “pleasant savory taste.”
What are umami flavors?
Umami is the term used to describe the fifth sense of taste. The four basic tastes had been identified for a long time; sweet, sour, bitter and salty. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 1900’s that a Japanese chemist by the name of Kikunae Ikeda unearthed the fifth taste that we now know as -- UMAMI. Ikeda’s research led to the discovery of the source of this savory flavor: glutamic acid.
Because of its savory qualities, glutamic acid is processed and used as one of the components in the controversial seasoning MSG, which is used as an additive in certain foods to enhance the flavor.
But don’t get glutamic acid and MSG confused. Glutamic acid itself is not MSG. In fact, it’s a naturally occurring amino acid and a building block of protein that aids in transmission of nerve impulses in the brain.
By seeking out foods that are naturally rich in glutamic acid, you can enjoy rich, savory, umami flavors while avoiding chemical additives.
There are many umami foods naturally rich in glutamic acid. For example, green tea, shiitake mushrooms and tomatoes. Another excellent example is dashi broth, which is made with kombu and rich in umami flavor. (In fact, it was kombu that inspired Ikeda’s research).
You can even amp up an old favorite like potato salad by using a savory condiment such as HealthSavor Miso Mustard, which contains 26% chickpea miso.
One of the easiest ways to make a delicious umami ramen is to use miso in your broth. Ramen broth recipes vary widely, and often have a vegetable, pork or chicken stock base. To make your broth blast off with flavor try adding three tablespoons of Miso Master Organic Traditional Red Miso paste per quart of liquid to your recipe.
To add miso paste to your broth, first mix the miso paste with warm water and stir until the mixture is smooth. Then add the mixture to your broth. This helps the miso incorporate better into your soup base. (NOTE: To maintain the integrity of the healthy bacteria in miso paste, refrain from boiling.)
You can also substitute soba noodles for ramen if you’re looking for a buckwheat alternative.
Perhaps the most famous method of adding umami flavor to dishes is the inclusion of MSG. However, many individuals avoid added MSG in their diets, meaning they must find their savory satisfaction elsewhere.
Miso is one of the easiest and most versatile ways to add a savory element to foods. Miso comes in multiple varieties that range in concentration of flavor meaning there’s an option for everything from salmon and sauce to bread and dessert.
Make it umami with miso
Miso Master Organic Miso comes in six different varieties for a range of flavors. Here’s a quick breakdown of what to use when.
Short-term miso varieties
Our short-term miso is aged for thirty days. This produces a lighter color and milder flavor. Short-term miso is excellent for adding to desserts, baked goods, salad dressings, and vegan cheeses. Our short-term miso varieties are:
Long-term miso varieties
Our long-term miso is aged for a minimum of one year. This produces both a darker color and a more concentrated flavor. Long-term miso is exquisite in stews, soups, sauces and marinades. Our long-term miso varieties are:
Yield: About 1 1/2 cups
Walnut sauce has long been one that our family enjoys with noodles as well as vegetables. One day, we used pecans instead of walnuts and found they made an even better sauce. Since pecans lack the slight bitterness of walnuts, this sauce needs no sweetener. If, however, you use walnuts, be sure to add 1 or 2 teaspoons of mirin or rice syrup. This recipe makes enough sauce for about a pound of noodles.
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1–2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup pecans
1 cup water or mild-flavored vegetable stock (carrot stock is a good choice)
3 tablespoons Miso Master Organic Mellow White Miso or Sweet White Miso
1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
- In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic, and stir to coat with the oil. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Stirring occasionally, sauté for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the onions have caramelized to a golden brown color. If necessary, add 1 or 2 teaspoons of water to prevent burning.
- While the onions cook, roast the pecans in an unoiled skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly for 5 to 10 minutes, or until crisp and fragrant.
- Place all of the ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Use immediately.