Cheese, and ketchup, and bacon… oh my! These are just three of the comfort foods we always turn to – but why do we do it? Chalk it up to umami!
When someone is asked to describe the taste of their food, you’ll hear a cycle of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Rarely will you hear the savoury taste, umami, as a way to describe something that’s quietly overwhelming.
The idea of umami as a basic taste comes from Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda. The thought came to him when he had the epiphany his seaweed broth was so tasty thanks its pseudo-meaty quality.
Running tests on his dinner later on (he is a chemist), he found it held glutamate crystals, creating this ineffable flavour.
There’s a stable form of this chemical called monosodium glutamate, which you may know better as MSG. It’s the umami taste that’s been patented, branded as Ajinomoto, and is now used in foods around the world.
Scientists found humans couldn’t resist that umami flavour in the year 2000, finding we have a specific taste receptor for it. This is why MSG is so popular, as well as foods containing the natural forms of glutamate that triggers the umami receptors.
Foods like cheese, bacon, and chips with ketchup all have this natural glutamate, and is why we’ve gone so far to call them addicting at times.
Check out the video below to learn more about the foods we love, and the truth about the risks of consuming too much artificial MSG.