Umami Turns 100

100 years ago, Japanese scientist Dr. Kikunae Ikeda identified a taste different from the four basic tastes already long established (sweet, sour, salty and bitter). He called this proposed fifth taste Umami and understood it to be a savory taste detected naturally in many foods including meat, fish, vegetables, and dairy products.

The relatively recent realization of Umami is kind of a big deal in the food world and it’s no wonder that chefs Thomas Keller of French Laundry, Hiro Sone of Terra and Ame and Kunio Tokuoka of Kyoto Kitcho in Japan are leading the commemoration of Umami this coming Monday, July 21 at the New Frontiers of Taste symposium being held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

We have to admit that we weren’t exactly sure what we may have eaten recently that could have stimulated our fifth sense of taste, but a little research explains that “it can be detected when eating ripe tomatoes, parmesan cheese, cured ham, mushrooms, chicken soup, meat and fish, and that it plays an important role in enhancing the natural flavor of food.”

Okay, so basically just about everything we eat can be categorized with this new flavor on the block and you can bet the next time we order something with parmesan cheese or mushrooms we’ll be jumping at the chance to flex our new foodie vocabulary.

Tickets are still available for the symposium and in addition to a panel-led discussion you’ll also get to enjoy a tasting session, The menu is elegant and vibrant, one of the highlights being Ginger-Poached Georgia Shrimp and Watermelon Salad with Lemongrass Vinaigrette—which, of course has Umami written all over it.

But if you can’t make it to the symposium and still want a chance to strengthen your new sense of taste, Hiro Sone has created a special “Umami Celebration Tasting Menu” for Ame in the St. Regis hotel. The menu has several appetizers and features Corn Bisque with Lobster Tortelloni and Pesto sauce, Broiled Sake Marinated Black Cod in Shiso Broth and Grilled Berkshire Pork on Carolina Gold rice and Tomato Risotto. And because all intriguing entrees should be complemented with an equally intriguing dessert, make sure you save room for the nectarine “panzanella” with caramel ice cream and dried shoyu. This special menu was launched Tuesday will be available through August 3—plenty of time to make sure you don’t miss out on the Umami centenary celebration.

Ame [Menupages]
Ame [Official Site]
New Frontiers of Taste [Umami Information Center]

[Photo via Ame official site]

Umami Turns 100