Ask Sac Mag: What Is Umami?


Umami is the fifth taste, the others being sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Typically described as a savory or brothy flavor, it’s found in meat, fish, soybeans, seaweed, Parmesan cheese and mushrooms.
     If you’ve ever eaten food with MSG, you’re familiar with umami. The taste largely comes from glutamate, an amino acid that occurs naturally in many protein-heavy foods; monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is the commercially produced version.
     Sawako Ama, a local chef and cooking instructor, explains umami this way: “We use it a lot in Japanese cuisine, sometimes Chinese cuisine. It’s something you can taste in the soup stock. Seaweed or anything else we use to make soup stock has umami.”