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What is umami to you?

I am fascinated with umami. As a person who always needs to know "why" I first discoered it in my quest to figure out why I craved mushrooms. It didn't make sense to me that I would crave some random fungus, but then i learned that they are chock full of umami which probably also explains why that dash of Parmesan seems to do something even though I can't explain it or I can inhale a pint of grape tomatoes without figuring out why. While I understand the chemistry, unlike the other "Big 4" - sweet, sour, salty and bitter - it is unique in that I can't seem to describe it in words. What is umami to you? How would you describe it?

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  1. Savoriness.

    Kokuni (the 6th taste) is deliciousness.

    11 Replies
    1. re: wattacetti

      I agree with the savory feeling, I just might have to accept that I can never explain what it is about umami in words that keeps me coming back.

        1. re: fldhkybnva

          < I just might have to accept that I can never explain what it is about umami in words >

          Neither can you explain "salty" in taste or "yellow" in color to another person.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Well, yea that bothers me as well. I just thought I'd see if anyone had any interesting descriptions out of interest. For example, I often describe tonic water as "tastes like the rainbow" which works for me but I'm sure others have interesting descriptions as well.

            1. re: fldhkybnva

              <I often describe tonic water as "tastes like the rainbow" >

              No, I think you are confusing that with Skittles. :D

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Tthat was absolutely too funny....thanks for the laugh!!

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I actually hate skittles but they do taste like the rainbow too :)

                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                    Pop your magic twanger Froggie & make us some umami

                2. re: fldhkybnva

                  When eating things with MSG it makes me salivate a little. Not drool!!

                  1. re: scubadoo97

                    I spent over 10 years trying to duplicate the fried rice that was so great at the stands and restaurants. I was following an old recipe that called for MSG. Problem solved!!!

                    Umami for me is like the German term Gemutlichkeit. Cannot be translated, but you know it when it happens.

                    1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                      OH, I'd say "gem├╝tlich" is cozy. "Gem├╝tlichkeit" = coziness. Of course, everyone may have some specific extra connotations attached to a word.

          2. Umami is taste with I associate with meats and seafoods.

            <unlike the other "Big 4" - sweet, sour, salty and bitter - it is unique in that I can't seem to describe it in words>

            I think umami is more subtle, but I don't think the other four are simply to describe in words.

            1. I just bought a bottle of it. " sprinkle that **** on everything." LOL

              1 Reply
              1. re: Puffin3

                Indeed, along with my favorite Franks' Hot Sauce which I do put on everything :)

              2. To me umami is ___, if not exactly like ___. It tastes just like ___. Yum.

                1. I have opined on the notion over the years, for example, here are some old ramblings of mine:
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7498...

                  Ultimately, however, I think of Umami as the bottom notes. Charles Mingus, Phil Lesh, or Berry Oakley - somethin' that just rounds it out, settles it down, and enhances everything else that is there to shine.