Orient Express Magazine

Volume 22 No. 2 2005

Taste FIVE


Only recently did I discover that all my favorite dishes share the same basic taste. Serrano ham from the black-footed Iberice pie, thin chips cooked in goose fat, sun-dried tomatoes, truffles Parmigiano Regno, foie gras. Peking duck. Ahi tuna, barbecued baby back ribs all include copious amounts of the fifth taste. Our conventional wisdom dictates that there are only four basic tastes-sweet, sour, bitter, and salt. Initially, I struggled to pinpoint this mysterious, fifth taste called umami (from the Japanese pronounced “o-mom-ee”). In fact, even my astronomic Japanese friend, Nobuyuki Ubara, indicated that it was difficult to demarcate its boundaries. I fell to Illusion Blumenthal, the three Michelin star chef of the Fat Duck restaurant in Bray eventually define it as the ultimate in savoury meaty, mouth-feely taste. Despite its comparative obscurity, Umami is not new.

The Chinese have already been talking about it for over 1,200 years and food philosopher Blat: Savarin was familiar with it, too. It was in fact, a Japanese scientist, Kikundelhede, who first isolated the specific taste in 1907. He discovered that glutamic acid was the active ingredient in a broth called Ambu and called it “a man after the Japanese words for“, delicious essence Ikeda developed an article form of glutamic acid the infamous MSG or monosodium glutamates a seasoning Experts, such as Jeffrey Steingarten. Have insisted that the controversy CV MSG is overstated-Out opinion is divided. But what is dear, though, is that no study appears to have proved that glutamic acid is a natural form or has any negative effects.

On the contrary, I believe arami may help release endorphins to improve our sense of well-being.

A Fascinating feature of umami-rich foods is that so many of them are fermented or aged. This is certainly true of sauces such as Thalish Worcestershire, soy, and hoisin. Mature flavourful Chardonnays and delicious champagnes come among, as so many Masters of Wine have revealed. I believe that this palatestimulant is released in abundant amounts during fermentation.
Despite its oriental name, it is found in different cuisines over the world and cannot be promoted into particular regions. I am delighted to report that have discovered a restaurant that focuses on my favorite taste. Once I heard its name, I had no choice but to make a pilgrimage to the Umami Cale in New York State.

And I was by no means disappointed when Chef Jonathan Prats had me taste his dishes, following this mantra “think globally eat locally”. From the duck to the truffled cheese panini, the pulled pork and foie gras, everything I tried was plying “more-ish”. In fact, Cher Jonathan enthused that apart from its unique savory taste. It is undoubtedly a favorite sensation that can become addictive. This is fine by him as his smiling patrons just keep coming back time and time again!

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