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Fierce Umami 2

Umami is the essence of Japanese cuisine, and is recognized as one of the five basic tastes. Umami-rich Japanese stock, dashi, is the key element of the authentic Japanese cuisine. Since 1960s, umami was misunderstood to be the cause of “Chinese food syndrome”. Toxicology studies, however, can’t reproduce the syndrome. Three umami compounds identified almost a century ago are glutamate, insinuate (IMP) and guanosine monophosphate (GMP).
Konbu is rich in glutamate.
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Shiitame-mushroom is rich in GMP.
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Katsuobushi (bonito-flakes) is rich in IMP.
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Greg is explaining his recipe.
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Cherry tomatoes are rich in glutamate. Chew on it for a couple minutes. After sourness and sweetness passes the tongue, the lingering flavor is mostly umami. Aside from its own taste, umami alters the perception of the other four tastes. It makes sodium taste saltier and sugar tastes sweeter. However it also suppresses sour and bitter flavors. When students tried organic chicken soup and mushroom soups, the addition of MSG made each soup taste even better. My mother always added a teaspoon of “secret” as she called it to a soup or sauce at the end. The “secret” was often soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce or ajinomoto (MSG). Both sauces are rich in umami flavors. Umami has an ability to make food taste complete.
Organic soup vs. organic soup + MSG. The former was good, but the latter was yummy.
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• To understand the taste sensation associated with umami
• To understand the impact of umami on overall sensory perception

A. Ichiban Dashi (adapted from Food of Japan and Encyclopedia of Asian Food)


Volumetric Measuring Pitcher
Digital Balance
Medium Saucepot
Fine Mesh Strainer


1000 ml Water
1 ea Kombu, 2” x 2” square
30 g Bonito Flakes


1. Wipe kombu with damp cloth to remove any excess salt.
2. Place water and kombu in saucepot.
3. Place over medium heat and bring just barely to a boil.
4. Test kombu a thickest part. If not soft, add 30 ml of cold water and continue cooking just under a simmer until kombu is soft.
5. Remove kombu when properly cooked.
6. Add 60 ml of cold water and the bonito flakes to saucepot.
7. Bring pot to boil over high heat, remove from heat.
8. When flakes settle to bottom of pot, strain carefully through fine mesh sieve. Reserve until ready to use.

B. Miso Soup with Wakame and Tofu


Volumetric Measuring Pitcher
Medium Mixing Bowl
Medium Saucepot
Small Mixing Bowl
Digital Balance
1 oz Ladle

Cutting Board
Squeeze Bottle


1000 ml Ichiban Dashi (see above)
5 T Miso paste (Awasemiso or Shinshu)
2 T Dried Wakame
2 ea Scallions
1 ea Tofu Noodle Recipe (see Week 4)


1. Finely julienne scallion, green and white parts, on a steep bias to obtain 1 ½ “ lengths. Reserve.
2. Soak wakame in cold water in medium mixing bowl for 5 minutes until soft.
3. Remove wakame from water, squeeze, and pat dry. Finley julienne into 1” lengths. Reserve.
4. Pour ichiban dashi into saucepot and bring to boil over medium heat.
5. Place miso paste in small mixing bowl. Add 1 fl oz (1 ladle) of dashi to miso. Use whisk to mix into paste.
6. Pour tempered miso paste into remaining dashi broth. Mix thoroughly.
7. Ladle soup into serving bowls while still very hot.
8. Squeeze tofu noodle batter into bowls to made tofu noodles.
9. Sprinkle with scallions and wakame.

C. Roasted Mushrooms with Umami Seasoning Fluid Gel (adapted from Modernist Cuisine)

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Medium Mixing Bowl
Digital Balance
Roasting Pan
Small saucepot
Small cake or loaf pan
Fine Mesh Strainer
Cutting Board


30 ml Vegetable Oil
500 g Mushrooms, Common White
AN Kosher Salt
AN Black Pepper, Freshly Ground
300 g Brown Beef Stock
80 g Tomato Ketchup
60 g Honey
30 g Fish Sauce
20 g Sherry Vinegar
6 g Agar
150 g Dark Soy Sauce

(For the mushrooms)
1. Preheat oven to 3750F.
2. Quickly rinse mushrooms to remove any dirt and debris. Wipe off any stubborn material with a brush, towel, or paper towel.
3. Using a knife remove just the tip of the stem of the mushroom then cut mushrooms into ¼’s.
4. Place mushrooms in mixing bowl and add vegetable oil. Toss to coat.
5. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly.
6. Place mushrooms onto roosting pan and place in oven.
7. Roast for 20 minutes stirring once after 10 minutes and again after 15 minutes. Cook until golden brown and tender.
8. Remove pan mushrooms are cooked. Reserve aside to keep warm.

(For the fluid gel)
1. Combine beef stock, ketchup, honey, fish sauce, sherry vinegar and agar in saucepot. Whisk to combine.
2. Place pot on stove over medium heat. Bring to 950C for three minutes to hydrate agar, whisking occasionally to prevent scorching.
3. Remove sauce from heat and pour into cake pan/loaf pan mold.
4. Place mold in refrigerator. Cool until set.
5. Remove from refrigerator when set, and break into small pieces and place in bender.
6. Add soy sauce to blender with gel. Blend over medium speed to smooth sauce consistency.
7. Pass fluid gel through fine mesh strainer.
8. Serve in a small bowl with roasted mushrooms for dipping.


Booth, Shirley. 2002. Food of Japan. Interlink Books: New York, NY.

Myhrvold, Nathan, Young, Chris, Maxime Bilet. 2011. Modernist Cuisine. The
Cooking Lab: Bellevue, WA.

Solomon, Charmaine. 1998. Encyclopedia of Asian Food. Periplus Editions (HK)
Ltd: Boston, MA