THE DISCOVERY OF THE UMAMI FLAVOR
Professor Kikunae İkeda of Tokyo University discovered in 1908 that there was a distinct flavor in the soup stock made from the seaweed ‘kombu’ which was used in ‘Yudafu’ (boiled tofu dish), and that glutamate was the active ingredient that gave this flavor to the seaweed. İkeda called this new taste between sweet and salty and reminiscent of meat, “umami” which translates to ''savory taste''. This amino acid, which exists in high proportions in beef, chicken, fish, sea products and other meats, stimulates the taste receptors in the tongue once it is separated from proteins and becomes glutamate.
Professor Ikeda obtained the patent for the umami flavor, which would subsequently become one of the top 10 discoveries in Japan, and asked the chemist Saburosuke Suzuki to establish an enterprise for the commercialization of Umami. In 1909, one year after the patent was obtained, AJI-NO-MOTO® started being sold as the world’s first umami flavor. The Ajinomoto company, which Ikeda took part in establishing, became the first company that marketed monosodium glutamate.
How do our tongues perceive the
The human tongue has receptors that detect the basic tastes of sweet, sour, salty and bitter in substances, and transmit information regarding the those tastes to tastes nerves. The surface of the tongue has three types of taste papillae, and each papilla has taste buds. Adults have between approximately 7,500 and 12,000 taste buds.
Taste buds are composed of taste cells, which have taste receptors on their surface. In 2002, a research group of Howard Medical University detected amino acid receptors, and in 2006, Ajinomoto's Institute of Life Sciences discovered that such receptors were also present in the stomach. The academic community has acknowledged umami as a basic taste.
Which foods contain the umami flavor in abundance?
Umami consists of components such as glutamic acid, inosinic acid and guanylic acid. Glutamic acid is one of the 20 amino acids that make protein. Glutamate, which is the essence of Umami, is a key component of food proteins (vegetables and meat). Glutamic acid is found in high quantities in vegetables like tomatoes and in cheese; inocinic acid is found in fish and meats of all types; and guanylic acid is found in mushrooms.
Additionally, free glutamate is a natural ingredient in many food products such as red meat, poultry, sea products and vegetables. Tomatoes are particularly rich in glutamate, and therefore are widely used to introduce the umami taste to dishes in various parts of the world.
Why do babies and children love Umami so much?
We first become acquainted with Umami during breastfeeding. This is because breast milk contains high amounts of glutamic acid. Glutamate is the most ample among 20 free amino acids that exist in breast milk. The glutamate content of breast milk is about ten times more than that of cow’s milk.
A newborn baby can also discern the 5 basic tastes. Taste acts as a signal for the intake of the nutrition needed by the body. Babies do not like sour and bitter tastes, while they fondly consume vegetable soup which contains the sweet and Umami flavors.
The human body synthesizes 50 grams of free glutamate each day
Our body is made up of about 70 percent water and 20 percent protein. The glutamate that exist in human muscles, the brain, kidneys, liver and other organs and tissues accounts for approximately 2 percent of total body weight.
An average adolescent consumes an average of 10 to 20 grams of bonded glutamate and about one gram of free glutamate in food daily. Additionally, the human body synthesizes 50 grams of free glutamate daily.
To strengthen the “Umami”:
You can obtain delicious and satisfactory tastes while you reduce the salt content.
You can cook healthy and delicious menus with umami without using cream or butter in excess.