Not Sweet, nor Salty: 'Umami'

Chefs and Campbell's alike seek coveted, satisfying 'fifth taste'
By Laurel Jorgensen,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2007 4:26 PM CST
A customer makes a purchase next to a shelf of Frito-Lay snacks at a convenience store in Boston in this July 12, 2005 file photo. Frito-Lay is testing umami ingredients from Latin and Asian cultures...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Humans crave not only salt and sugar, but also a savory, satisfying flavor known as “umami,” the Japanese term for “deliciousness,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Umami (“oo-MA-mee”) describes the taste of stick-to-your-ribs dishes such as chicken soup or Caesar salad with Parmesan cheese and anchovies. Chefs and packaged food companies alike are seeking ways to add umami to meals.

MSG is a well-known ingredient that adds umami to food, but the additive has a bad rep in the US. One chef makes a “umami soy sauce” with seaweed and dried fish that he says is “like an MSG bomb.” And companies like Campbell’s Soup and Frito-Lay are trying to create umami in dishes like low-sodium soup.