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Sweet, bitter, salty and sour are what we all learned as the four basic tastes.  Now a fifth element of taste has been identified called umami. Umami is the Japanese word for "delicious" or "savory" but is regarded as broth-like or meaty tasting in Western cultures. The umami taste is most common in Asian foods, soups and stews, mushrooms, tomatoes and aged meats and cheeses. The most direct way most Americans have experienced this taste is in sautéed mushrooms as glutamate is abundant in all mushrooms. Other glutamate-rich foods include tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, bonito flakes, and kelp.

The umami taste is conveyed by several substances naturally occurring in foods, including glutamate, better known in the west as monosodium glutamate (MSG). The artful use of umami can make mediocre fare taste better and good food taste great. It's sometimes associated with a feeling of perfect quality in a taste, or of some special emotional circumstance in which a taste is experienced. It is also said to involve all the senses, not just that of taste.

The following history is courtesy of Linda Stradley and her web site What's Cooking America at http://whatscookingamerica.net .

Umami was first identified by Oriental cooks over 1200 years ago. It wasn't until the turn of 20th century that scientist's isolated glutamate and other substances, which convey this distinctive flavor. In 1908, Kikunae Ikeda of the Tokyo Imperial University identified it. Professor Ikeda found that glutamate had a distinctive taste, different from sweet, sour, bitter and salty, and he named it "umami".

Bread made without a raising agent. Baked thin.

Unsweetened Chocolate:
Chocolate with no added sugar and is generally composed of 55% cocoa butter and 45% chocolate mass from the bean. Produces an intense chocolate flavor that must be tempered by sugar and other ingredients. (See also Baking Chocolate).

Hulled and split black Mung Daal.

A waste product of the breakdown of protein that is excreted by the kidneys.

Uric Acid:
A nitrogen-containing waste product of protein metabolism. Buildup in the body causes gout.

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