Umami is the mysteriously addictive fifth primary taste we all crave unknowingly. The complex food component has created a hunger in consumers that needs to be satisfied. Luckily, Sweet Street is at the forefront of this emerging trend, that’s about to blow up. Zoe’s Crush is a perfect mix of sweet, savory and umami. This deeply satisfying, gluten free, deliciously packed cookie blends almonds, toffee, toasted sesame, candied ginger, Peruvian chocolate and a delicate hint of miso, that’s where umami plays. What is Umami and why is it vital for food?
It seems as though consumers are just recognizing the name of this elusive flavor, but Umami has been well-established in Asian culinary history, first named in 1908 by a Japanese chemist. In Japanese, umami means “pleasant savory taste”, but we know it as “craveability”. The bold taste can be found in Asian cuisine through ingredients like soy sauce, miso paste, gochujang, and common pantry staples like, tomato paste, Parmesan cheese, and mushrooms – the list goes on.
Katie Ayoub, from Flavor and the Menu, points out that there’s a new and interesting trend happening in menu development and Umami is top of the roster. “The collective taste buds of consumers are evolving” she says. Chefs around the world have noticed a shift in the preference of the modern palate, averting overly sweet foods and focusing on the more savory dishes. Umami balances the other four tastes. It’s is more than flavor, it’s a sensation that stays with you and lingers.
The perplexing taste has earned its place on global menus, but how the flavor actually functions is complicated. Nancy Rawson, associate director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, says that “there is a molecular receptor which responds to umami stimuli from MSG”. This means that humans have developed a mechanism to sense and respond to umami flavor. This priming process may take place as early as before and just after birth, when amniotic fluid and breast milk contain large amount of amino acids that transmit umami taste, setting us up to crave its complexity throughout life. Even as the senses of an aging population decrease, umami can act as an agent to enhance appetite by keeping the dish appealing. Food scientists are still researching to explain it’s molecular mechanism and human’s nutritional drive towards it, but one thing is clear, umami is here to stay.