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.