Umami is the fifth flavor alongside the four more well-known: sour, sweet, bitter, and salty. It is a savory taste described as meaty or brothy. Is your mouth watering yet? Well, that's the simple, easy answer. Umami is so much more than that. We mention umami a lot when describing matcha because of its complexity. So let's break it down.
Umami is a savory flavor that coats your tongue, lingers, and makes you crave more. It's earthy and rich. Umami's found in mushrooms, cheeses, tomatoes, meats, seafood, and fermented foods. Think deep flavors. The best part is, umami is also a food enhancer. It helps bring out the sweetness or saltiness of dishes it's included in.
Here's the fun part. We add umami flavoring everyday. It's the ketchup we eat with our fries and the soy sauce we have on our rice. It's the savory cheese and tomato sauce on our pizza that leaves us wanting more.
Foods that have the amino acid glutamate are what cues this umami flavor. When glutamate hits your tongue, it sends signals to your brain and says, "This food is delicious. Gimme more." It makes you crave savory protein and causes your mouth to water. While it's doing all that, your stomach gets ready to eat some good grub. The more glutamate in your food, the more of this amazing umami experience you'll have.
Simply put, Monosodium Glutamate is umami seasoning. It's the salt or sugar of umami. The same man who discovered umami also created monosodium glutamate or MSG. The Japanese scientist, Kikunae Ikeda, loved umami so much that he wanted a way to add it into everything he made. When he discovered what caused the umami flavor, he turned it into a seasoning. The difference between umami and MSG is that umami is the flavor and MSG is additive to your food.
And there you have it. Umami is a delicious savory flavor. It triggers science that makes you love it and want more. And the best part? It's super common and you can find it as a seasoning.