Building Blocks of Flavor: Umami

Our last installment in building blocks of flavor is of particular interest to vegetarians: umami.
We are old enough to remember when scientists only talked about the four tastes that the human tongue could perceive: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Umami is the taste of savory which can best be described as meatiness. There are actually taste bud receptors that register umami, just like the other four flavors so umami isn’t theoretical. More specifically these receptors register glutamate which is a common component in most umami enhancers.

The reason why it’s good news for vegetarians is that many miss the savory, “meaty” quality of foods once they head down the healthier path. Many vegetarians can get that quality back by adding mushrooms, tomato paste, soy sauce, kombu or parmesan ( depending on how vegetarian you are ).

So if you want to pump up the umami quotient, vegetarian or otherwise, consider these umami builders, in addition to the previously mentioned, when you are engineering your recipe.

– Dashi
– Fish Sauce
– Garum
– MSG
– Nutritional yeast
– Soy Sauce
– Worcestershire Sauce