Pro tips for boosting flavor
It’s one of today’s hottest culinary topics. Everyone is looking for it. Everyone wants to add it. So, what exactly is umami, and how can you put it to work on your menu?
In the West, we tend to think of four basic flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Umami (oo-MAH-mee) is the fifth flavor—often described as meaty, savory or brothy. And although it was first identified and analyzed in Japan in the early 20th century, umami has been around for thousands of years as the “secret weapon” of cooks looking to add flavor intensity.
It’s a flavor that is harder to pin down than the other four. Yet if you know what to look for, umami is instantly recognizable. It’s the tongue-coating richness of reduced meat stock, the intensity of parmesan cheese, the concentrated flavor of sautéed mushrooms or tomato sauce, and the complex, sweet-savory depth of traditionally brewed soy sauce.
What’s behind all of these umami-rich ingredients is a high concentration of certain amino acids—often the result of fermentation or reduction. But it’s what they do to other foods that is truly remarkable.
Umami ingredients boost flavor. Add them and foods taste richer, more intense, more fully rounded. And traditionally brewed Kikkoman® Soy Sauce is one of the most versatile, all-purpose umami ingredients of all.
This is essentially how soy sauce has been made since its invention about 2,500 years ago, when it was created as a way to give vegetarian food a richer flavor. In fact, it’s one of the world’s oldest umami ingredients.
But what makes it different from other umami ingredients is its versatility. You’re not going to add a pinch of parmesan cheese or chopped mushrooms to just anything you cook. But traditionally brewed Kikkoman® Soy Sauce, which contains more than 300 distinct flavor and aroma components, is an easily incorporated liquid that’s convenient to use and store. And when used in the right quantity, it can actually act as a natural flavor enhancer for just about anything savory. In other words, soy sauce can be “instant umami.