Events: Umami Symposium & Dinner


Do you know umami? It's considered the 5th taste, the others being sweet, bitter, sour and salty. Umami is best described as savory. It's that kind of meaty flavor you find in even non-meat foods like parmesan cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms and soy sauce.

A hundred years ago Japanese scientist Dr. Kikunae Ikeda first discovered that glutamic acid, an amino acid, was responsible for the umami taste of konbu, a type of kelp used in Japanese cooking. Today there is an Umami Information Center dedicated to all things umami and to helping scientists, chefs and consumers learn about it.

Next month the Umami Information Center will be sponsoring an Umami Symposium in San Francisco. Culinary experts and scientists will discuss the impact of the fifth taste in a casual panel conversation. The panelists include: Gary Beauchamp, Ph.D. Director, Monell Chemical Senses Center, Harold McGee, Ph.D. food writer and molecular gastronomist, Kunio Tokuoka Executive Chef, Kyoto Kitcho & Tim Hanni Master of wine and wine educator. The Master of Ceremony, Kathy Sykes, Professor of Sciences and Society, University of Bristol, will mediate by engaging the panel of experts and the audience in a discussion about the importance of umami and its influence on the culinary industry.

Following the discussion, world-accredited chefs will serve a multi-course umami-inspired lunch. Highlights of the menu include Seared Japanese Spiny Lobster, Ginger-Poached Georgia Shrimp and Watermelon Salad, and lamb dish Salle d’Agneau Cuite sous Vide. Tim Hanni will introduce a number of wines at the luncheon to explain and show how they can successfully be paired with umami-rich foods.


What: New Frontiers of Taste Umami Symposium
Where: Hyatt Regency San Francisco, 5 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco
When: 11:30 - 4:30 pm, Monday, July 21, 2008
How: Tickets are $100 or $50 for students. Register and buy tickets Registration closes July 7th and there is no onsite registration.
Why: Hear experts discuss and debate the science of food and the sense of taste. Explore cutting-edge food, wine and umami pairing ideas and enjoy a sit-down luncheon featuring a variety of umami-rich dishes from some of the world's leading culinary chefs including Thomas Keller, Hiro Sone and Kunio Tokuoka from Japan.

Can't make the symposium? You can try chef Hiro Sone's Umami Celebration Tasting Menu at Ame between July 14th and August 3rd, 2008. Contact Ame for restaurant information and reservations.

AME Umami Celebration Tasting Menu

Ame Raw Three ways;
Ceviche with Garum Lime Sauce
Sea bass sashimi with Ume Plum Vinaigrette
Kampachi Carpaccio with Nuka Pickles and ponzu

Corn Bisque with Lobster Tortelloni and Pesto sauce

Broiled Sake Marinated Black Cod in Shiso Broth

Grilled Berkshire Pork on Carolina Gold rice and Tomato “Risotto”
with Vadouvan Sauce

Nectarine "Panzanella" with Caramel Ice Cream and Dried Shoyu

Or try this recipe at home:
Ginger Shrimp and Water Melon Salad with Lemongrass Vinaigrette
Serves 4

For the Vinaigrette:
4 Tbsp. Freshly squeezed Lime Juice (about two limes)
1 tsp. minced Lemongrass
1 tsp. smashed and minced dry shrimp
2 tsp. fish sauce
½ tsp. minced Ginger
Pinch minced Thai chili
½ tsp. sugar

In a small mixing bowl, whisk all ingredients together. Set aside.

For the Salad:
1 Tbsp.thinly sliced Red onion
1 Japanese Cucumber, thinly sliced
½ small Seedless water melon, skinned and cut into 1 ½" x 1 ½" x 1½" cubes
2 small Heirloom Tomatoes, slice to ½" thick
12 ea. ginger Shrimp, recipe follow
4 cilantro sprigs
2 tsp. chopped toasted peanuts

In a small mixing bowl, season the onions and cucumber with little salt, set aside for five minutes. Pat dry. In a medium size mixing bowl, combine the watermelon, tomatoes, onions, cucumber, shrimp and the vinaigrette together. Divide onto 4chilled serving dishes. Arrange the cilantro sprig on the top and sprinkle the peanuts. Serve.

For the Ginger Shrimp:
8 cups water
1 small onions (about 6oz.), thinly sliced
1/3 cup thinly sliced ginger (about 1 ¼ oz.)
1 clove garlic, smashed
3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
5 Tbsp. kosher salt
12 fresh shrimp tails in their shell, about 1oz./ea., veins are removed

Combine everything except the shrimp in a stainless sauce pot and simmer for about 10 minutes, add the shrimp tails and bring back to a boil over high heat and simmer 10 seconds, then drain. Transfer the shrimp to a sheet pan and let them cool. After the shrimp are completely cooled, carefully peel the shell. Discard the shell. Cover the shrimp with plastic wrap until use.

COPYRIGHT © Hiro Sone 2002