Umami is a Japanese word that refers to the fifth basic taste, in addition to sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. It is a savory, meaty flavor that is often described as "deliciousness" or "yummy" and is commonly associated with foods that are high in glutamate, an amino acid that occurs naturally in many foods.
Umami is believed to be a result of our taste buds detecting the presence of glutamate, as well as other compounds such as inosinate and guanylate, which are also found in high-protein foods like meat, fish, and vegetables. These compounds can enhance the flavor of food and create a satisfying sensation in the mouth.
Umami is a significant flavor in many cuisines, particularly in Asian cooking, where it is often achieved through the use of fermented or aged ingredients such as soy sauce, miso, fish sauce, and fermented shrimp paste. It is also found in many other foods, such as Parmesan cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes, and seaweed.
The discovery of umami as a distinct taste is credited to Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda, who first identified it in 1908. Since then, umami has become widely recognized as a fundamental taste, and its importance in creating delicious and satisfying food continues to be explored and celebrated by chefs and food enthusiasts around the world.