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What's YOUR Opinion; Umame, is it real?

So what do you think, is umame real or just a very successful "Emperor's New Clothes" style advertising campaign?

Personally, I can't give an informed opinion because I have yet to eat a dish that claimed to feature that particular "flavor".

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  1. It's umami and it isn't a flavor. It is one of the five basic tastes (like sweet, salty, bitter, sour). The taste is a reaction to L-glutamate:


    Since I haven't seen it used in advertising campaigns except for Kikkoman soy sauce, I'm puzzled by why you think it is a very successful advertising campaign. What other advertising have you seen it used in?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Just Visiting

      <The taste is a reaction to L-glutamate>

      Just want to clarify that L-glutamate gives a strong "umami" taste, but it is not the only amino acid which triggers this umami taste.

      "Umami is the taste quality associated with several amino acids, especially the amino acid L-glutamate. "


      "We demonstrate that T1R1 and T1R3 combine to function as a broadly tuned l-amino-acid sensor responding to most of the 20 standard amino acids..."


      <I'm puzzled by why you think it is a very successful advertising campaign.>

      Considering how many people testify that they hate the artificially added MSG, we really have both like and dislike witnesses for this taste.

    2. For me, umami IS real.

      It's the depth in a grilled mushroom, past woodsy and into savoury;
      it's the part of soy sauce between "dark" and "salt;"
      it's what makes me say "this tastes like a real tomato!";
      it's why I savour ikura;
      it's the other full flavour in a baked sweet potato beyond sweet and baked and salt and butter;
      it's the edge of parmesan cheese that isn't fat-sweet-sour-bitter-salty

      I know people who, when asked about tastes, say "it tastes like a 'fresh tomato'" without any other way to describe it.
      Or "It's cheese-- it tastes like CHEESE."
      I think a vocabulary word they are missing IS umami.

      Reader's Digest [yes, really] has an informative slide show here:

      1. It's like the G-Spot.

        And you better believe I believe it's real.

        3 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit

          I never knew that "G" stood for "Glutamate". Learn something new every day!

          1. re: ipsedixit

            You mean women know umami is real, and (most) men think it's hype?

            1. re: ricepad

              Thanks. Now I have to clean coffee off my key board. And my hisband thinks I've lost my mind!

          2. It is real. It isn't just Emperor's New Clothes (and why would it?). It has been shown that our tongues have receptors for the so called umami.

            Let me put it this way. Prior to the classification of umami, it was believed in Europe that all tastes (anything you can taste) can be deconstructed to four basic tastes: saltiness, sweetness, sourness and bitterness. If you have ever eaten meat before, then you would have realized that there is this "meat" taste which is not these four tastes. Many realized something is missing because they can feel there is something which cannot be constructed from these four tastes. This is later called umami.

            1. You've probably eaten many dishes that have that particular "taste" as it's a component of many common dishes. I "believe" in umami as I'm not sure what's not to believe in. As an aged cheese, tomato-loving, mushroom-addict, meatatarian I think I have my fair share of glutamate receptors :)

              1. Of course it is. Milk, meat, etc, are not salty, bitter, sour, or sweet. When I was a child, I could never figure out why people said that there were only four tastes.

                3 Replies
                1. re: RosePearl

                  I can't believe that there are only 5, unless you want to broaden the definition of umami to everything that doesn't fall into the first 4.

                  1. re: TroyTempest

                    Well, we only know 5 for now for sure. Possibly a 6 one on fat, but that is a very subtle taste -- if it is a taste.

                    Please also know many of the so called "taste" is really smell. For example, fresh apple and fresh potato have the same taste, not the same smell. Whatever the difference we notice between the two, they are smell driven.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Interesting. I forget about taste without smell.

                2. I posted this almost three years ago. I'll stand by it.

                  "I suppose my point is that Umami is bigger than the sum of its parts. In the century since Ikeda tried to decode what made dashi so magically delicious, it has proven that there is more to umami than the glutamate originally assigned the appellation. For example, the science has clearly expanded to prove the roles of the ribonucleotides.

                  All of that, however, is really still trying to capture snozberries in a piece of gum. Umami in dashi is still elusive and hopefully always retains some of that quality. Admittedly, this notion is a bit romantic given the initial scientific guise of the inquiry. It seems, however, that the colloquial development of the term in Japanese culture during the seventy-five years before it began to waft into the western lexicon adopts that imprecise element.

                  The explanation of umami as “the fifth taste” is a helpful shorthand. It satisfies our need to categorize, but fails to handle the nuance that distinguishes it, both scientifically and experientially, from the other “tastes.” The notion certainly existed before science was able to peek behind the curtain and I submit that its spirit will always maintain a bit of je ne c’est quoi.

                  At bottom, MSG is not umami, nor can you distill a few ingredients into a tube and fairly try to usurp the term."


                  1. And good old Wikipedia says:

                    Basic tastes...
                    ...As of the early twentieth century, physiologists and psychologists believed there were four basic tastes: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness. ... now a large number of authorities recognize [umami] as the fifth taste...There is some evidence for a sixth taste that senses fatty substances

                    In Asian countries within the sphere of mainly Chinese and Indian cultural influence, pungency (piquancy or hotness) had traditionally been considered a sixth[7th?] basic taste

                    1. For me, "umami" usually means "there's too much damn msg in this"

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Atomic76

                        I understand why you might think this way given umami's relationship to Japanese cuisine, but umami is present in other foods such as Parmesan cheese. It always amuses me to hear my Indian family complain about their MSG allergies, yet have no problems eating dishes cooked with dried mango powder.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            Maybe it's like caffeine -- you build a tolerance and then get a withdrawal headache?

                            In my personal experience, MSG headaches are "all in their head." Can't tell you how many times I've heard people complaining post-Asian meal, when we've been to a restaurant that trumpets that they DO NOT EVER use MSG.

                            In certain circles, I think MSG headaches are just cache.

                            1. re: Kris in Beijing

                              Or maybe there is a racial/ethnicity difference.

                              Migraine, for example, has difference occurrence among different racial groups. Whites being much higher than Asians.

                          2. re: Atomic76

                            <For me, "umami" usually means "there's too much damn msg in this">

                            Maybe, but that also means it is a "real" thing.

                          3. "The good thing about science is, it's true whether or not you believe in it." -Neil DeGrasse Tyson

                            It's a TASTE, not a flavor. Tastes are things your tastebuds recognize..flavors require a working nose. Lots of things taste sweet, but they all have different flavors. As far as my tastebuds are concerned, umami is the taste of nearly everything that's good. The foods that make my eyes roll back in my head and my heart soar always turn out to be umami-rich.

                            1. Definitely real.

                              There is a Korean bean paste (comes in a square plastic box as gochujiang hot pepper paste does, except green) that tastes salty and soybeany, but also adds a "gosh darn this is TASTY!" taste. So does Viet fish sauce. Strangely, I am utterly unable to detect the legendary similarly-described effect of MSG.