Foods that are high in umami compounds include seafood, meats, aged cheeses, seaweed, soy foods, mushrooms, tomatoes, kimchi, green tea, and many others. Try adding some umami-rich foods to your diet to take advantage of their flavor and health benefits. Glutamate is found in a variety of foods including meat, fish, and vegetables. Inosinate is found in generous amounts in animal foods, such as meat and fish, while large amounts of guanylate can be found in dried mushroom products, such as dried shiitake.
Umami is identified as the fifth flavor that has a deep flavor, which is meaty and salty and gives you a feeling of satiety in your mouth. A perfect example of umami would be eating cheese along with ripe tomatoes. Monosodium glutamate can also be used to reduce salt levels in foods while creating a pleasant flavor. The fermentation process, like the curing process, also breaks down glutamate into free glutamate and gives it a stronger umami flavor.
This suggests that, even among the basic flavors, umami has a major impact on the aftertaste of foods. Kikunae Ikeda identified that certain foods tasted better and called that flavor umami, which directly translates to “essence of delight”. For humans, being able to distinguish the five basic flavors is an indispensable survival skill, because it allows us to avoid risky foods and obtain nutrients safely. On the other hand, broth and tang have high levels of amino acids that are not umami substances and, consequently, have more complex flavors.
Umami is naturally present in food products, but monosodium glutamate is also added to foods to improve flavor. The salts of the amino acid aspartate and the nucleotide adenylate are also types of umami substances, weaker than glutamate. The analysis of their content reveals that they are all rich in the substances umami, glutamate and inosinate, and all stand out for their intense flavor. Japanese scientists discovered this fifth flavor at the beginning of the 20th century and called it umami, which translates as salty.
However, it was only about a century ago that umami was discovered as a basic flavor and monosodium glutamate was invented and released as a condiment for umami. The ideal umami enhancers to fill your pantry include ketchup, miso, truffle oil, ranch dressing and soy sauce, to name a few. By learning to make Japanese dashi, they master the use of umami as an alternative to animal fats before developing their own umami-oriented approaches to cooking. The characteristic flavor of meat arises when meat protein breaks down during the aging process and increases the free glutamate contained in umami.
In one study, participants separately put solutions of the substances umami glutamate and inosinate, table salt and tartaric acid (the acid component of wine) into their mouths, then spat out the solutions and compared the intensity of the flavor remaining in their mouths.