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.