Umami? What Does It Have to Do with Rice Cooker?

What is umami? Umami, noun, pronounced as “oo-ma-mee”, is a Japanese word for “deliciousness” or “savory taste”. It is known as the fifth flavor/taste/dimension in food.

Who Discovered Umami?

The discovery of umami originated from a Japanese researcher in Tokyo Imperial University, Dr. Kikunae Ikeda. Umami was identified as the fifth taste as Ikeda was researching the unique flavor in dashi stock made from kombu (kelp). In 1908, Ikeda succeeded in extracting a white compound, glutamate from kombu. The glutamate was the key contributing factor in the savioriness in the dashi stock. He then coined the word “umami” to describe the distinctive flavor. Since “umami” didn’t belong to any of the four flavors in foods, therefore, the fifth flavor came into being.

Even though the four basic tastes of sweet, sour, salty and bitter have been recognized for hundreds of years, but “umami” was not legitimately added to as the basic fifth taste until 1980s after various studies.

umami food

umami food


Umami Foods

As Dr. Ikeda pointed out, if you paid special attention to your taste buds, you would discover a unique and complex umami in cheeses, cured meats, fermented sauces and various vegetables.

Real life examples of umami in foods could be traced throughout the history and around the world. Some familiar examples are: Parmesan cheese, cured meats, soy sauce, fish sauce, miso, and shitake mushroom.

Meat or vegetable stock is widely used in Western and Eastern cuisines. These stocks are a practical and synergistic application of combining and extracting out the umami flavor of the glutamate from meats, seafood and vegetables.

As much as it took a long time to accept umami in the world, especially the Western world, umami has become a new darling in the food scene and it holds increasing appeal to the food manufacturers and restaurant operators. Whether you’ve noticed or not, foods capitalizing umami taste are everywhere from seaweed chips to umami chocolate.

Umami Rice Cooker

Not only are the food manufacturers leveraging the potential of umami, the kitchen appliance giant such as Zojirushi also took note of the trend. In fact, Zojirushi came out with an umami rice cooker a couple of years ago where rice is soaked and steamed for a longer period of time to harness the delicate sweet aftertaste of rice, the umami flavor. Please check out my detailed review on the Zojirushi NS-YAC10/18 Umami Rice Cooker to see if it will help tantalize your taste bud to an umami height.


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