What is Umami?

Today’s subject; Balancing the five tastes, what is Savory /Umami? Ketchup plays a staring role in many popular meals. Without consciously knowing it, we have instinctively been balancing the ‘five tastes’. It is said a healthy meal has the full spectrum of flavor; Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter and Savory / Umami, (Spicy also has it’s place).

“Umami is best described savory, and is detected in amino acid rich foods that give a sense of lingering mouth-feel and body. Umami is not a strongly detectable taste of itself, but it tends to accentuate and embolden other tastes. Umami intensifies sweet and salty, and rounds out sour and bitter.”

Original ketchup recipes call for Fish Sauce which provides the Savory / Umami flavor. Fish is a good source of protein and thus the amino acid Glutamate. There are 22 amino acids that make up “protein” so they are found in varying quantities in all meats, poultry, fish, eggs and seaweeds, seeds, nuts and legumes. Tryptophan, for example is an amino acid that is found in large quantities in Turkey.

It is interesting to note the brain recognizes nutrients, The specific amino acid responsible for the flavor Savory / Umami is glutamate (in conjunction with the ribonucleotides inosinate and guanylate.) When reading a Nutrient Data Label, the word ‘Protein’ indicates the estimated quantity of undefined amino acids contained in a serving.

The sense of taste is a recognition of nutrients. The flavor Savory/ Umami is detected in amino acid rich foods like beer, red wine, soy sauce, fish sauce,anchovy paste, pickled herring, Parmesan and Roquefort cheese, Truffle and other Mushrooms, Worcestershire Sauce and Sauerkraut.

Heinz ketchup Ingredients: (Vary depending on location)Tomato paste (made from fresh ripe tomatoes), liquid sugar, white vinegar, salt, onion powder, spices.

“Ketchup was sold nationwide in the US by 1837 thanks to the hard work of Jonas Yerkes, who sold the product in quart and pint bottles. He used the refuse of tomato canning-skins, cores, green tomatoes, and lots of sugar and vinegar. Lots of other small companies followed suit-by 1900 there were 100 manufacturers of ketchup. The big success came in 1872 when HJ Heinz added ketchup to his line of pickled products and introduced it at the Philadelphia fair. The Heinz formula has not changed since, and has become the standard by which other ketchups are rated.”

Currently mass produced ‘condiments’ are preserved with vinegar so what could be an excellent source of nutrition has been replaced with a product that ‘tastes good’ but offers little actual nourishment.

I am my own experiment but I would like to see a prospective study where commercial, vinegar based condiments are replaced by traditional fermented ones.

Science has dissected nutrient components and reassembled them into ‘food’ additives that claim to enhance flavor, emulsify fats, and extend shelf life. Naturally occurring Proteins undergo processing and become products/ commodities.

GLUTAMATE, is an amino acid and neurotransmitter, it is involved with cognitive functions like learning and memory. The protein in wheat may be 30-35% glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is found commercially as a flavor enhancer on the form of MSG sodium salt monosoduim glutimate.

INOSINATE is a nucleotide monophosphate important in cellular metabolism. Commercially it is manufactured with the aid of genetically modified organisms into compounds for use as a flavor enhancer in soups, sauces and seasonings. Three compounds of this manufacturing process include E 631 disodium inosinate, E 632 dipotassium inosiate and E 633 dicalcium inosinate.

GUANYLATE , guanosine monophosphate GMP, Is used commercially as a flavor enhancer produced from dried fish or seaweed. It is found in the form of E 627 disodium guanylate, E 628 dipotasium guanylate and E 629 calcium guanylate.It is often used in instant noodles, potato chips, savoury rice, tinned vegetables, cured meats and packet soups.

Once upon a time food preservation techniques enhanced the nutritional value of ‘condiments’ and Ketchup wasn’t always made with tomatoes! More than merely an addition for mouth feel or moisture ketchup, mustard, pickles and sauerkraut played a role in nourishing our bodies and minds.

With a little time and know-how it is possible to prepare food in such a way that it becomes more nutritious and easy to digest. North America in general is a society that is overfed and under nourished, instead of investing in multi-vitamin pills and specific supplements try introducing a natural dose of synergistic nutrients from whole fermented foods into your everyday eating. Here is a recipes for comparison. If you make some I would love to hear about your experiences with the process.


Recipe Above: From Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Revised 2cd Edition. “The Cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats.”


Umami – How Cooking with Umami Rich Foods (Parmesan Cheese, Fish Sauce, Anchovies…) Will Make You a Better Cook! http://hubpages.com/hub/Umami—How-Cooking-with-Umami-Rich-Foods-Parmesan-Cheese–Fish-Sauce–Anchovies-Will-Make-You-a-Better-Cook

Glutamic acid; From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glutamic_acid

Amino acid; From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amino_acid

Inosinic acid; From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inosinate

Guanosine monophosphate: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guanylate

A Brief History of Ketchup http://www.essortment.com/all/historyketchup_rlju.htm

One Comment to “What is Umami?”

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