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Creating Meals with Umami Flavour

umami foods

'Umami foods' create unique flavours when used in recipes.  Sources of umami flavour include:

  1. Sea vegetables (seaweeds)
  2. Some garden vegetables (ripe tomatoes, mushrooms, mature potatoes/squash/corn, legumes)
  3. Meat (cured ham, beef, lamb & poultry)
  4. Fish & shellfish (dark fin fish like anchovy, tuna, mackerel & most shellfish)
  5. Fungi (mushrooms, truffles & savoury yeast)
  6. Condiments (fish & soy sauce, Caesar dressing, Worcestershire & ketchup)
  7. Fermented beverages (wine, beer & sake)
  8. Dairy (aged cheeses, blue cheeses, eggs)

There are different types of umami molecules as per the diagram below:

Intensifying the Umami taste

Scientists claim that combining various umami foods from different groups in a dish can intensify the umami flavour eight times.

umami dishes
(C) 'Umami' by Ole G. Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaek

The image above illustrates which foods are rich in different umami molecules. The nucleotide partners needed for the tango are adenylate, guanylate, and inosinate. Mushrooms, particularly dried shiitake mushrooms, are hotbeds of guanylate; fish are high in inosinate, and shellfish in adenylate. Tomatoes are in a umami class of their own, containing both aminos and nucleotides, particularly in their interior pulp." says Paul Adams in Popular Science.

While some foods are naturally endowed with much umami flavour (shellfish, seaweeds & mushrooms), others need to be selected at the right time (ripe tomatoes) or for their ‘lifestyle’ (tuna vs gurnard) to get the 'good umami' attributes.  Soups or broths are often the best example of umami taste.  Although many foods have some umami, intensity increases with the right combination of ingredients and a preparation method that naturally releases & concentrates the amino acids. To intensify umami flavour:

  • Add glutamate-rich stock, like seaweed stock to dishes
  • add fermented products for example cheeses, artisan breads, sauerkraut or fermented vegetables
  • Cook -  heat, examples are searing, braising & slow cooking
  • Age/Cure – natural enzyme action, for example, cure meats, fish and vegetables (pickles)

Umami bombs - are created by combining multiple sources of Umami and preparing them in a way that enhances overall flavour.

Read Umami Bomb, a recent best seller on creating Umami recipes by Raquel Pelzel.

umami bomb


Umami Information Centre
Put the science of Umami to work for you
The power of umami: pep up your supper with super-savoury flavour bombs
Seaweeds for Umami flavour in the new Nordic Cuisine

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