Umami is the name of the fifth basic taste (besides sweetness, bitterness, sourness and saltiness) that is mainly attributed to the amino acid glutamic acid and which can be literally translated as “deliciousness”.

In 1908 the Japanese took Kikunae Ikeda found that monosodium glutamate is the “tasty compound” of Laminaria japonica (algae), which is traditionally used in Japan to improve the taste of soups. He named this sensory impression umami.

The "Umami taste"

Umami substances such as glutamate enhance the taste of food, particularly of meat and meat products. However, this improvement cannot be described by the four basic tastes sweetness, bitterness, sourness and saltiness. Therefore, umami is called the fifth basic taste. With the taste receptors T1R1 and T1R3 an explanation for the umami taste seems to be found.

Side effects

In susceptible persons (especially women), a high intake of monosodium glutamate can induce the so-called Chinese restaurant syndrome (glutamate intolerance). Symptoms can include:

Chemical structure of umami compounds

Characteristic for umami compounds is that two negative charges are three to nine (carbon-) atoms of each other away.

Other flavor enhancers with glutamate-like taste and partly similar chemical structure are:

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