Sweet, Salty, Sour, Bitter – pretty familiar basic flavors. The 5th, Umami still causes many questions and some people are not sure what it actually tastes like. Umami is a taste of Glutamic acid and it makes pretty much anything taste better and more bold. Umami flavoring is well known in Japanese and other Asian cuisines and if you never thought of umamizing your food, you should right now.
Sour/acidic taste enhances the umami flavor. And any seemingly bland vegetable dish can have a bright burst of deliciousness with easy adding of umami ingredients.
Umami “superstar” plant based ingredients are fermented products like soy sauce, miso, yeast, kimchi, seaweed and some vegetables – tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, truffels, garlic. But increasing the umami profile is possible in other ingredients by fermentation, smoking/fire roasting, maillard reaction (reaction between amino acids and caramelizing natural sugars when roasting, baking or frying).
You’ve probably noticed already that adding a bit of soy sauce or nutritional yeast will make your meal more flavourful. Don’t be afraid to use those simple ingredients in dishes you wouldn’t normally put it. You can also create some ultimate umami combinations, by roasting veggies/mushrooms and drizzle them with miso-based dressing (tahini, miso, soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic etc), buddha bowls with roasted tomatoes, smoked tofu, kimchi, nori and some grain or try my umami salad – roasted eggplants, beluga lentils, sundried tomatoes, herbs, with savoury soy sauce tahini/yogurt dressing. Skyrocketing umami lunch guaranteed.
Umami seasonings like soy sauce, miso, and nutritional yeast marmite are usually quite salty, so add a little bit at the time and taste as you go.
Umami is a great way to add flavor and if you want to go even further pimping your dish try playing with different textures, adding crunchy or chewy to cooked veggies/grains. Another flavour booster (actually aroma booster really) – fresh herbs. Little pot of parsley or chives on your window sill can lighten up every sad salad or sandwich.
I was told by a chef once that umami tastes like women. Well, I think men also have umami taste, if you try the right man at the right places 😉