Waiter, There’s a Fifth Element in My Soup

This is your tongue on Umami.
This is your tongue on Umami.haha Photo: npr.com

On the eve of Momofuku Noodle Bar moving its base of operations up the street, NPR’s feature today on the “fifth sense” of umami has a certain timeliness. (In the ramen business, every day is umami day.) The Japanese word for “yummy” is used to describe the taste of meat, animal fats, cheese, dashi, and other foods in which glutamates have broken down — it reflects the “savory” sensation that everybody likes in chicken soup, ramen broth, and other foods not notably salty, sweet, bitter, or sour. The feature is a kind of combination of Science on the March, with Escoffier standing in for Madame Curie, and a Paul Harvey piece: “and that flavor, that scientists said was just a figment, was… umami. Now you know the rest of the story.”

Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter… and Umami [NPR]